Hospitals accused of cheating targets23rd December 2009
The Conservative Party have warned that hospitals are making patients wait in assessment units in order to distort A&E waiting times.
The party asked hospitals to give them information about how wards were used as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
Figures from 114 trusts in England revealed that hospitals could bypass the four hour waiting time target for A&E by letting patients wait in clinical assessment units.
Time spent in these units does not count towards the waiting time. The average waiting time in a unit was 17 hours, with more than one fifth reporting waits of over 24 hours.
A proportion of the units are mixed-sex and do not have beds, only trolleys. The units are used to monitor patients before staff decide whether to admit or discharge them.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Labour complacently claim that they have abolished long waits for patients being admitted to hospitals, but these figures show that all they have really done is fiddle the figures. It is unacceptable and has to change."
Nigel Edwards, policy director of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital trusts, said it was likely patients were being moved to provide more time for tests, as the four-hour target did not give medical staff "very much leeway".
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Title: Hospitals accused of cheating targets
Author: Jess Laurence
Article Id: 13589
Date Added: 23rd Dec 2009