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A&E targets risk patient safety

23rd March 2010

The College of Emergency Medicine has criticised the health service target of treating patients at A&E units within four hours. 

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The College said the target put medics and workers under "incredible pressure" and put patient safety in danger.

The target for A&E departments in England has caused much controversy, with opponents saying it forces staff to put time constraints ahead of patient care.

Dr John Heyworth, the chairman of the College of Emergency Medicine, said the deadlines aided in making A&E treatment a major concern for the health service.

However, he added that workers were having to meet the deadlines under huge strain, and he had seen nurses in tears and doctors threatened with disciplinary action.

"It's not what the clinicians are in the emergency departments for. But it's representative of the immense pressure being put on chief executives and all managers downwards from there to comply with the target", he explained.

The Department of Health said that in 2003 in England nearly one quarter of patients took more than four hours to be treated in A&E.

It said that now the number stood at less than 2%.

A spokeswoman said: "Patient safety and good quality care should always take priority over administrative targets where a doctor believes that is necessary."

 

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