NHS waiting times will rise after targets axed’

PUBLISHED: 11:10 24 June 2010 | UPDATED: 18:04 25 August 2010

WAITING times will increase as a result of the coalition government s decision to scrap key NHS targets, according to a policy expert.

WAITING times will increase as a result of the coalition government's decision to scrap key NHS targets, according to a policy expert.

The government has axed targets introduced by New Labour including 48-hour access to GPs and the 18-week referral to treatment - though they will retain the two-week cancer rule.

Ministers have abandoned performance management of GP access with immediate effect, meaning Primary Care Trusts will no longer be able to pressure practices over their performance on extended hours or urgent care.

This comes after Trust bosses from Bexley, Greenwich and Bromley decided to close the accident and emergency unit at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, which the Times has campaigned against since 2007.

Policy expert Dr John Lister, from pressure group London Health Emergency, who has spoken out against the closure of the A&E in Sidcup, said: "If anybody felt that the Labour government hadn't improved anything, they will when they see the waiting list times go up and up.

"I am not a fan of targets per se, but this is really bad news. People who can afford it will be encouraged to go private.

"I was at a meeting recently with people from 10 or 11 different countries and they said they could not do better than the 18-week target."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the changes would help drive down the management bill for Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities from its current level of £1.85 billion to £1 billion by 2013-14. Practices will no longer need to guarantee access to a GP within 48 hours and to a primary care professional within 24 hours.

Mary Broadhurst MBE, 74, who was director of midwifery at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup from 1973 to 1993, said: "It is good to get rid of them. With the A&E targets, you weren't necessarily seen within four hours as you were just taken to an observation ward, which is just like an extension of A&E.

"People should be seen properly when they come through the door. I'm not sure that people received better care.

"It is insulting to doctors to say this is how we are going to do this and that. A lot of administrators decide what operations actually get done.

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