Much criticism of the NHS has been made over the years of ‘chasing targets’. Politicians from both sides have condemned chasing targets for the sake of targets.

The problem with this is that targets are targets for a reason. They  measure how well a system is performing, and should be used to indicate when problems are  going wrong. Unfortunately, the Department of Health seems to not paying attention, as five key NHS area are missing their targets.

1. A&E

A&E has just had their worst ever month. A&E departments have a target to see 95% of patients within 4 hours. In February 2016, the most recent month for which data is available, they managed just under 88%. Not only is this 7% worse than their target, it is the lowest ever recorded. Only 5 hospitals managed to meet the 95% target.

A&E Targets (2)
133 out of 138 hospitals missed their A&E targets


2. Diagnostics

Diagnostics tests  can range from complex things like an MRI scan or a urine dynamics test to simple stuff like ultrasounds or blood tests. Nationally, it is expected that less than 1% of patients will wait over 6 weeks to get a diagnostic test.  This target was not met.

In addition, there were 863,100 people waiting for a diagnostics test at the end of February 2016. This is 6.1% more than at the end of February 2015.

3. Transfers of care

Transfers of care occur when people move from NHS (hospital) care to social (community) care. A common example would be an  elderly person who had a fall and and now needs daily carers as he or she returns home. There has been a 17% increase in delays to these transfers of care from February 2015 to February 2016. In fact, January and February 2016 are the two worst months on record for delayed transfers.

More of these delays came from the community than in 2015 – 32.2% compared to 25.9%. This comes after councils have had their social care budgets slashed over recent years.


4. 111

What used to be NHS Direct, 111 is supposed to offer people medical guidance in non-emergency situations. Ideally, calls are answered quickly, and if the correct information cannot be provided there and then, a return phone call is offered as soon as possible

Unfortunately, that is not the case. The percentage of phone calls answered in under a minute fell by 13.5% between February 2015 and 2016. For those that needed return phone calls, only 35% received them in under 10 minutes. That is the worst proportion ever recorded.

111 calls (2)
Nearly three times as many people had to wait over a minute to have their 111 call answered in 2016 compared to 2015.


5. 999 

999 calls about life-threatening medical emergencies are categorised as Red 1 or Red 2. These include cardiac arrests and strokes. The target is that 75% are answered in 8 minutes or less. In February 2016, 68% of Red 1 calls and 60% of Red 2 were answered within the target time. These were the worst months ever recorded.

Both these measures have been under target for the past 9 months. In fact these target have been missed every month since April 2014, with the exception of March/April 2015.

Every missed target here is worrying individually. Put them all in the same system and its a recipe for catastrophe.Whether poorly-managed or under-resourced, the NHS is in a sorry state, and only seems to be getting sorrier under the Government’s noses.


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