Responding to reports in The Times that Accident and Emergency departments will no longer have to treat patients within four hours, former Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

“There has been a widely held view that the 4 hour standard transformed hospital care and ended dire delays when patients arrived in an emergency. It forced hospitals to focus on the whole system through to discharge, to ensure that beds were available to admit seriously ill patients. But, it has also been accepted that the standard can distort clinical priorities.

“A review of the standard with a view to introducing a more sophisticated approach is reasonable. But if, in reality, it was effectively abandoned, then we could see a very rapid deterioration of waiting times for patients arriving in A&E.

“They have got to get this right. The principle that people should be entitled to assessment and treatment within a reasonable time in our NHS is really important and should not be abandoned – and certainly not because of cost pressures.”

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