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Analysis

Will momentous changes to the four-hour target in EDs affect patient safety?

NHS England remains tight-lipped about what will happen to four-hour target if new measures being piloted from April are successful
ED target times

NHS England remains tight-lipped about what will happen to four-hour target if new measures being piloted from April are successful

The four-hour emergency department (ED) waiting time target must go down as one of the most successful in the history of the NHS.

Introduced 15 years ago by the then Department of Health for NHS acute hospitals in England, it transformed the image of ED care from one where long waits (anywhere between 12 and 48 hours) were routine to a service that is probably the most trusted to see patients quickly.

In 2018, 21 million patients passed through EDs in England in under four hours – up 23% since 2004-05.

21 million

patients seen in less than four hours in emergency departments in England in 2018

Source: NHS England (2019)

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