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Patients admitted “to hit targets”

Hundreds of thousands of emergency patients are being admitted to hospital in a bid to meet Government waiting time targets, research has revealed.

Figures from the CHKS Group revealed that hospitals often admit patients who have been waiting in Accident and Emergency departments in order to ensure they are seen within the Government’s target time of four hours.

The group, which provides healthcare information, suggests up to 720,000 more patients have been admitted to hospital after visiting an A&E department within the last five years, at a cost of some £2bn to taxpayers.

Dr Paul Robinson, head of market intelligence at the firm, said the same rises had not occurred in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the targets have not been imposed.

He added: “The A&E target in England has clearly had an impact. It is only England that showed this increase, and it is difficult to see why other places did not, unless the A&E targets were the cause.”

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Health defended the introduction of the target, saying: “Targets have led to almost all patients in Accident and Emergency being seen and treated within four hours – a massive improvement on performance four years ago when a quarter of patients spent more than four hours waiting for treatment.”

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Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“My concern and experience is that achieving the target very rapidly becomes the primary concern to some directors. Efficiency and patient care take second and third place. This results in patients being admitted, as has been evidenced, when they would  previously have not necessarily been so; in patients being moved to areas where they receive suboptimal care in situations where they would have been better off receiving appropriate care in the A&E; and in subordination of real performance mnangement systems and measures to the target itself. If we spent more time working on properly managing performance, and if we removed the punitive perception of target failure, the shortened A&E wait would occur naturally as part of real systems improvements rather than through increasing costs to the health economy.” – Name and contact details supplied