TOWER HAMLETS Labour Party members were out on the streets of central London today – with thousands of others, marching to show their support for the NHS. They were protesting on the day the Tories came up with another cover up to mask their mishandling of the NHS.
As protestors slept, NHS England announced that they were scrapping the system of targets that saw A&E departments being required to keep patient waiting times to below four hours.
The four hour target was never a panacea. It led to clinicians sometimes having to concentrate on meeting the targets rather than clinical need. It led to creative behaviour by local NHS bureaucrats, who invented systems of admitting patients to observation wards attached to A&E units – so that the figures appeared to show they had been treated.
Despite its faults, the target system did put some drive into A&E departments and did allow some kind of monitoring. The percentage of A&E departments meeting the targets has fallen under the Tories, who have shipped out the usual excuses – an influx of flu, a lack of outflux of the elderly, the dog ate their homework, etc. What could be done?
NHS England has gone for the easy option: if you can’t meet the target, abolish the target; if you can’t get away with abolishing a target, suspend it. The target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours has not been met since 2015 – and it won’t be met until 2019 now, because it has been “postponed”.
Relaxing the punishing target may be something of a relief for hard pressed front line staff. However, it will be harder to establish what effect Tory underspending on the NHS is having.
Still, at least Tower Hamlets Labour Party is doing its bit. Led by local supporters of the pro-Jeremy Corbyn Momentum group, members took a break from door-knocking and headed off to the central London demonstration – where they joined up with members of the local Unite Community Branch. Those in East London who rely on the NHS will be hoping that their protest is successful.