Emergency blues

The Health Minister, John Hutton, today described a BMA report on the Government's A&E targets as "deliberately misleading". He must be rattled: the report is on the whole very supportive of the improvements that have been made in A&E departments—it simply highlights that going the 'third mile' is in some ways counterproductive, and may actually be harmful to (some) patients. It is certainly leading to a great deal of 'headless chicken' behaviour on the ground, and brings out the worst in managers, who are under extreme pressure to deliver the full target (98% of patients seen and dispatched within 4 hours of arrival in A&E). This cannot be in patients' best interests, Mr Hutton.

Tony Blair however was more conciliatory, agreeing that the four hour target may be too rigid. He said:

Most people would say the accident and emergency departments today are a lot better than they were...We feel, and maybe we are wrong, that one way we've managed to do that is by setting a clear target...But maybe we need to look at how we have sufficient flexibility in the targets."

Dream on.