A&E slump and spike in cancer waits mean stormy waters for new NHS targets - John Appleby

Professor John Appleby responds to the latest Combined Performance Summary figures for January and February 2019.

Press release

Published: 14/03/2019

Responding to the latest Combined Performance Summary, Chief Economist at the Nuffield Trust Professor John Appleby said:

“Today’s figures are the worst performance against the 4 hour A&E target since records started and the number of patients waiting on trolleys is creeping above levels seen during the Beast from the East storm last February. In January almost a quarter of cancer patients waited longer than two months to start treatment following a GP urgent referral, which is a sharp and concerning spike compared to previous months. These measures show the sheer weight of pressure that NHS staff are facing on a daily basis and will understandably worry patients at a very difficult time.

“We’re in favour of testing the radical overhaul of A&E targets announced by NHS England last week, because there is a risk that the current one is driving poor behaviours. But it will be hard for managers to implement them and for the public to have faith that this isn’t just lowering the bar while queues continue to go out of the door of A&E. In short, it is hard to fix the ship’s steering in stormy waters.”

Notes to editors