The King's Fund responds to plans to pilot changes to NHS waiting times targets

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Responding to plans to pilot changes to NHS waiting times targets, announced by NHS England today, Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:

‘NHS waiting times standards are powerful tools that have played a key role in improving the experience of patients. But these targets have also resulted in some unintended consequences and many of them were developed well over a decade ago – so it is right to consider whether they are still fit for purpose.

‘We welcome today’s proposals to implement new standards for faster diagnosis of cancer and to speed up mental health treatment. This will help ensure much-needed investment reaches front-line services and could have as much impact on access to mental health services as previous targets had on access to hospital treatment. 

‘It is right to pilot the proposed changes to accident and emergency (A&E) and planned hospital treatment to understand their impact on patient safety and the quality of care. However, these targets have not been met for several years and continue to be missed by a wide margin so it is important to be realistic. Changing existing targets and introducing new standards is not a panacea for improving patient care – without enough staff and resources to care for patients, targets both new and old will continue to be missed.’

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.