Hunt proposes reform to 4-hour A&E standard

Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals. Register to read more

Following intense scrutiny on A&E pressures this week, Jeremy Hunt has suggested that the 4-hour waiting time standard should be revised to remove non-urgent cases.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hunt explained: ‘It is clear we need to have an honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments. There is nowhere outside the UK that commits to all patients that we will sort out any urgent health need within 4 hours. Only 4 other countries, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia and Canada, have similar national standards which are generally less stringent than ours.’

He went on: ‘This government is committed to maintaining and delivering that vital 4-hour commitment to patients. But since it was announced in 2000, nearly 9 million more people are using our A&Es, up to 30% of whom NHS England estimate do not need to be there, and the tide is continuing to rise.’

Mr Hunt concluded: ‘So if we are going to protect the 4-hour standard, we need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within 4 hours, but not all health problem...