NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh is to review the current waiting times standards for elective care, the organisation’s chief executive Simon Stevens has announced.

  • Sir Bruce Keogh to review waiting time targets fo elective care
  • NHS England medical director will also consider extending pilot scheme for ambulance response standard
  • Simon Stevens says whether staffing guidelines are necessary will be looked at

Sir Bruce will also consider whether a pilot scheme for ambulance services to be given two minutes longer to assess patient need before sending out a response vehicle should be expanded to the whole of the country. It follows speculation in recent weeks about whether the national NHS bodies would make waiting times standards more flexible, amid severe financial problems and many organisations having difficulty meeting them.

Bruce Keogh

Sir Bruce Keogh is to review the current waiting times standards for elective care

Mr Stevens, addressing delegates at the NHS Confederation conference in Liverpool today, also appeared to say that NHS England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings would review whether the recommended staffing guidelines which are under development, and being introduced, were needed.

He said the NHS had “got to ensure that we collectively deliver on our key public facing performance standards… but we also need to ensure that the way we measure and interpret those important standards does not in itself give rise to perverse incentives or unintended consequences”.

In relation to the staffing guidelines, introduced in response to the Francis review, Mr Stevens said: “I’ve asked Jane Cummings the chief nursing offer to take a look at whether it would [make] more sense, in respect of the new staffing guidelines which are being proposed for various parts of the health service, to… [take] a different approach for answering those questions rather than a more mechanical approach which might otherwise have been installed.”

In relation to the elective care standards Mr Stevens said: “So I’ve asked my colleague Bruce Keogh to do a review of, particularly the [referral to treatment]standards, but also to answer the question of whether the South West ambulance pilots should be extended.” Several sector experts have previously argued the current elective targets are not effective.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in January that South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust and London Ambulance Service Trust would test a three minute assessment period for cases in the “red 2” category, but not the most severe “red 1” category cases. The pilots began in February.

Ambulance call handlers are currently given one minute to assess the severity of a patient’s condition and decide whether to send an ambulance.

In an exclusive interview with HSJ last week, Monitor chief executive David Bennett suggested NHS consider the scope for extending to other performance targets an approach being piloted by ambulance services.

Keogh to review elective waiting time targets