Waiting times remain NHS priority

NHS managers will still be “hung” if they fail to achieve targets to cut acute sector waiting times, despite government ambitions to shift resources into community services, the health select committee heard last week.

Senior NHS managers, speaking at the first session of the committee’s inquiry into NHS deficits, said waiting times and financial balance were the overriding priorities for primary care trusts.

The key waiting time target is to reduce the time from GP referral to the start of hospital treatment to 18 weeks by 2008, implying a focus on increasing the productivity of the acute sector rather than shifting services into the community.

No witnesses cited the target of reducing emergency bed days in hospital by 5 per cent by 2008 – seen as the key barometer for developing community services, particularly for people with long-term conditions.

Rotherham PCT chief executive John McIvor said setting priorities was about “identifying which targets you are going to get hung for if you don’t get it right”.

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