How long patients have to wait in Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments is an important measure of NHS performance. The 2018-19 government mandate to NHS England sets a target by 2020 of “95% of people attending A&E seen within four hours”. This manifesto pledge promises to pilot the live publication of those waiting times, which should make it easier to hold failing hospitals to account and rectify problems more promptly.
The publication of live A&E waiting times was already in place in certain NHS trusts before the last general election, for example in the North Midlands and in East Kent. There is also evidence of it being in place in Derby, Gloucestershire, South Devon, Plymouth, and Cornwall.
In most of these cases, the NHS trust website (or a dedicated mobile app) shows regularly updated, real-time figures of the number of patients waiting in both urgent and non-urgent care services, alongside an estimate of how much time patients are expected to have to wait.
What has the government’s role been in implementing this? Well, the measure was not mentioned in the 2014 NHS Five Year Forward View or its 2017 update. Also, the NHS Long Term Plan contained no statement on the continued roll-out of live publication of waiting times.
However, despite the apparent absence of governmental direction, given that live publication of A&E waiting times is in place in certain hospitals, and because the government is ultimately responsible for strategic leadership and funding of the NHS, we are marking this policy as ‘in progress’.
We’ll keep tracking to see if the pilot programmes are extended under this government and whether we can move this to ‘done’. Follow this policy for updates.
Don’t wait, get the details
- The Government’s mandate to NHS England for 2018-19 – Gov.uk
- Long waiting time at A&E? There’s an app to find that – BBC News
- How real-time data is reducing A&E waiting times – The Guardian
- NHS Long Term Plan – NHS
- NHS structure explained – NHS