13 Mar 2015

Our fourth policy briefing in the run-up to the General Election 2015 examines how hospital trusts in England are performing against six national targets. The paper argues against the notion that dips in performance can be attributed to a handful of poorly performing hospital trusts, and finds there has been deterioration across the board in some measures.


In the run-up to the General Election, we are producing a series of policy briefings on the issues and challenges that are critical to the longer term success of the health and social care system  the issues any Government after 2015 will need to prioritise.

Access to hospital care – is the NHS on target? looks at how 156 hospital trusts in England have performed against six national targets over the course of this Parliament. The targets examined are: the four-hour A&E target; the 18-week target for a hospital bed (inpatient treatment); the 18-week target for an outpatient appointment; the six-week target for diagnostic tests; the two-week target for urgent cancer referral; and the 31-day target for cancer treatment.

We’ve known that hospitals have been struggling to meet the four-hour A&E target for a while. But the fact that we are starting to see problems in other areas, like access to planned treatment, is a real concern. As this study makes clear, warning lights are now starting to flash across the wider hospital system.

Holly Dorning, Research Analyst and report co-author

The briefing, authored by Holly Dorning and Ian Blunt, highlights the variation between the top and bottom ten percent of hospital trusts and casts doubt on the idea that problems overall are caused by a series of local or managerial failings, and suggests instead that they are likely to be more systemic. As the briefing looks at the national picture affecting hospital care, individual trusts are not named.

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