Therese Coffey is considering abolishing A&E’s four-hour wait time targets as part of her “emergency plan” to tackle the NHS.
The new health secretary is understood to be looking at a series of measures to tackle the growing crisis in the NHS, due to be announced next Thursday.
But a source close to the discussions said the independent Getting rid of the four-hour waits, first suggested in March 2019, would have to get the green light from new Prime Minister Liz Truss.
The announcement will focus on the health secretary’s “ABCD” priorities, which stands for “ambulance, delay, care, dentists and doctors,” with improvements to mental health services as an addition.
Ministers are also said to be considering changes to NHS pension rules, hoping it will prevent nurses and doctors from retiring early. However, any changes will need Treasury approval.
Policies also being discussed include more call attendants for ambulances, more community diagnostic centres, accelerating the hospital construction programme, reducing “bureaucratic” burdens on GPs, improving direct access to counseling services for patients and a “robust” management of national dentists. contract.
The department has already submitted many of the plans as part of this summer’s announcements.
There is concern among those involved that the move will replace the four-hour wait with a new target, which could be just as difficult to achieve as the current target.
NHS trusts are currently required to see and admit 95 per cent of patients within four hours of arrival at A&E.
England’s NHS clinical standards review published last year said hospitals should be judged by the percentage of patients triaged within 15 minutes of arrival and the “average” time a person spends in an A&E department.
The review also said that A&E should also be measured in the percentage of ambulance transfers made within 15 minutes. The regions would be measured based on how many patients wait 12 hours in A&E departments.
Fourteen NHS trusts have been testing the new standards and, in a report to the health Service Journal, one of the trusts said a six-hour wait time should supersede the four-hour target.
The four-hour target has not been successfully met in England since 2015 and figures released over the summer showed the worst performance against this standard to date.
However, NHS experts warned earlier this year that trust data testing the new targets must be made public before any changes are made.
The latest figures, released on Thursday, showed that on average patients were seen in ERs within 10 minutes in 2021/22.
During the same period, the average time spent in A&E was less than four hours, yet nearly one million patients waited more than 12 hours in A&E since first arriving. More than double the number who waited so long the previous year.
Some trusts reported waits of 72 hours, but these were not included in the data set because it was thought “unlikely” that patients would wait that long.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said all policy announcements were under consideration and had not been finalized.