If the government decides to abolish targets for A&E waiting times, can the medical profession get together with patients’ associations and find a way to agree their own targets and then collate and publish the data themselves? (Doctors lead outcry at plan to scrap A&E target, 16 January).
We must not be held in hoc to a government which only tells us what they want us to hear. Of course it will be up to the Guardian to publish such information; rightwing media outlets are unlikely to disseminate information that might be detrimental to a government they support, but plus ça change.
Such an approach could apply to other areas as well – education, environment, housing and social care. Indeed targets and measures agreed and published by well-informed professional bodies would hold more sway than those that are politically motivated. This blatant assault on democracy through the massaging of data must not go unchallenged.
• Of course, A&E waiting targets are no help in running the front end of hospitals. The figures required for planning are the number of people attending and the resources (time, staff, etc) needed to treat them.
I, too, experienced the sight of people waiting on trolleys in corridors on a recent visit to A&E. Simply replacing the trolleys with beds and providing more cubicles or bays could solve the problem immediately. But this presumably would scupper the target for reducing hospital beds.
Dr Tony Hirst (retired GP)
• With the target requiring hospitals to treat 95% of A&E arrivals within four hours not having been met since July 2015, and performance dropping 10% in the past year alone, it is difficult to see Matt Hancock’s plan to remove it as anything other than moving goalposts to avoid scrutiny. In fact, the avoidance of having to face embarrassing figures and results is the one clear policy that has emerged from the Johnson/Cummings administration since the election, and as it was the funding and staffing of the NHS which caused the Tories the most worries during the election campaign, this target-scrapping is hardly surprising.
Indeed, evading scrutiny is bound to be at the core of any government headed by a man whose entire career has been based on “winging it”, and whose election campaign included reneging on interviews and debates, and hiding in a fridge. Johnson has already made a prime ministerial commitment to “cabinet government”, which is an excuse for him to avoid parliamentary scrutiny at the despatch box. Add to this his all too conspicuous penchant for overlong sunshine breaks, and the decision to restrict the inevitably embarrassing PMQs to 30 minutes, the obvious conclusion is that the only target that matters is the one regarding Johnson’s rating in the polls.
• Schools have to publish Sats results because the government says that tables help drive up standards by providing valuable information and increasing local accountability. Matt Hancock feels that NHS A&E targets are no longer “clinically appropriate”, so wants to scrap them. If the results on meeting targets are embarrassing, the solution is not to scrap publication but take positive action to improve them.
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