RCP welcomes proposed NHS pilots of rapid care measures

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Surgeons have welcomed NHS England's plans to pilot new NHS targets and measurements for cancer, emergency and planned treatment in England.

Following news that NHS England will test new rapid care measures for patients with the most urgent physical health and mental health needs aimed at improving care and saving more lives, RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard, and Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) issued a joint statement saying:

Current clinical standards, including the 4 hour A&E wait target, have driven improvements but we must be open to change and acknowledge that what is needed is likely to alter over time. Whilst improving patients’ access to care, the current standards have also led to some perverse behaviours. In the spirit of advancing medicine by testing hypotheses, we therefore support plans to pilot new NHS targets and measurements for cancer, emergency and planned treatment in England.

In the spirit of advancing medicine by testing hypotheses, we therefore support plans to pilot new NHS targets and measurements for cancer, emergency and planned treatment in England.

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard, and Professor Derek Alderson, president of the RCS

The RCS and RCP have had constructive discussions with NHS England and other medical royal colleges about these standards. Their development must be driven by doing the best for patients, ensuring that they are seen and treated in a timely manner. And they should incentivise behaviours that lead to better treatment for patients, rather than hospital processes. It is crucial that any new standards are developed in partnership with doctors and patients.

Over the last two decades the existing targets have, in conjunction with other measures, played a crucial part in driving dramatic improvements in waiting times for patients. It is important that any changes build on these achievements. At present the waiting list for planned treatment including surgery continues to grow and altering targets will not alone solve the underlying challenges we face.

We need to ensure that the review includes an honest conversation with the public about the value of current standards and different approaches that could be more effective. Alongside today’s proposals to test new measures for waiting times, we continue to call for a plan to tackle waiting lists and will work with the NHS to bring this about.

Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS in England’s national medical director and leader of the review, added:

The NHS is aiming to improve care for patients and save hundreds of thousands more lives over the coming years, with greater access to mental health support, better treatment for the major killer conditions and services which are more joined-up, personalised and closer to home.

So, as we build an NHS that is fit for the future, now is the right time to look again at the old targets which have such a big influence on how care is delivered, to make sure that they take account of the latest treatments and techniques, and support, not hinder, staff to deliver the kind of responsive, high-quality services that people want to see.

The new standard represents a significant step towards parity of esteem for mental health according to NHS England, and is among a raft of proposed clinical improvements that aim to deliver rapid assessment and treatment for patients with the most serious conditions, and expand short waits for millions more NHS patients.