Academics claim A&E targets are manipulatedThey say current target 'not achievable'
06 February 2007
Academics claim data is being manipulated to help NHS hospitals meet the government's target that no one should wait more than four hours to be seen in A&E, it has been reported.
City University's Cass Business School said the current A&E target was "simply not achievable without the employment of dubious management tactics", the BBC reported.
The target is that all patients should be admitted, discharged or transferred within four hours of arriving at Accident and Emergency departments.
Lead researcher Professor Les Mayhew said: 'The current A&E target is simply not achievable without the employment of dubious management tactics.
'The government needs to revisit its targets and stop forcing hospitals into a position where they look for ways to creatively report back, rather than actually reducing waiting times for real people.'
The researchers analysed data from 170,000 patients and used 'queuing theory', a recognised model to predict people flow used by supermarkets and traffic monitoring systems. The academics were then able to show how quickly hospitals could treat and discharge people to meet the target.
They found that patients would need to be seen and cleared from A&E wards within an hour. Before the target kicked in, patients were seen in just under two hours.
The researchers said this level of improvement was not achievable, although they did not doubt that waiting times had reduced.
Instead, they suggested hospitals were using tactics to stop the clock. They said there was a peak of patients being discharged at the four-hour mark, and suggested hospitals may be discharging them and then readmitting them straight away.
But the Department of Health dismissed claims that the waiting time standard was not being met as ‘absolute nonsense’.
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