'We need fewer, more realistic, targets'

Responding to our 2016 annual statement, NHS Providers argue that frontline NHS staff are working hard to maintain quality against financial pressures and growing waiting times.

Blog post

Published: 08/12/2016

Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation have published their joint QualityWatch annual statement for 2016.

The statement, titled ‘Quality at a cost’, looks at a range of care quality measures across the NHS in England. The report highlights several areas where standards have improved but warns of slowing improvement in others against a backdrop growing waiting times and continuing financial pressures.

The report argues that work by NHS staff to increase productivity and meet targets may have delayed the impact of financial pressures the quality of healthcare.

Key improvements include areas of public health and prevention, patient experience of hospital care and improved processes in stroke care. Growing waiting times for emergency and planned care and low satisfaction from mental health patients were areas of concern.

Responding to the QualityWatch annual statement for 2016, Chris Hopson, chief executive for NHS Providers said:

“This report highlights some of the great work going on in the NHS, often in very challenging circumstances. It sets out how, despite tight funding and an unprecedented increase in demand, the quality of care has been maintained or improved in important areas. That’s down to great work at the NHS frontline, day in day out, and is a real achievement we should celebrate.

“The significant improvements in patients’ experience of hospital care are particularly encouraging, although as the report notes, more still needs to be done.

“But the report’s two other key conclusions will resonate strongly with our hospital, ambulance, community and mental health leaders – that performance on access to care is still on a downward trajectory and we may be reaching the point at which sacrificing access is no longer enough to manage the extreme pressures under which the NHS is operating.

“Trusts will continue to do all they can, but we need fewer, more realistic, targets. We also need to recognise that problems in social care have reached a tipping point and GPs are in danger of being overwhelmed. We have argued and continue to argue that targeted investment in these services would help to relieve wider pressures in the NHS."