In the UK, emergency departments are expected to see 95% of patients within four hours of getting to hospital. However for the first 3 months of 2013, almost 6% of patients weren’t seen within 4 hours. 313,000 patients weren’t seen within 4 hours, up almost 40% on the total seen in the same period in 2012. This is the NHS’ worst performance in 9 years, and the first time they have broken the targets since they were changed from 2% to 5% in 2010.
Labour’s health policy in 1997, was strongly focused around targets for the NHS, and these targets have remained in health policy ever since. Labour encouraged management from the centre with large volumes of targets and strong enforcement of them from managers.
There has been a lot of criticism at target systems with problems with over management, and not giving doctors enough time to look after the sickest patients enough. Rather than giving patients the best care, the targets encourage doctors to pass on their care to other departments before completing all the routine checks and giving a full diagnosis. However, the target regime has a lot of strengths with a faster reduction in waiting times in the UK than other countries without target regimes. Do target regimes help in the treatment of patients?