Reid vows to cut NHS targets

Health Secretary John Reid has pledged the NHS would have fewer performance targets and a stronger emphasis on quality of care within the next few years.

Dr Reid launched a consultation paper on the measures by which the NHS would be judged in the future, setting out 24 "core standards" focusing on the quality of care given.

These standards will also feed into the star ratings system, which awards the best performing trusts three stars and less successful hospitals zero stars.

Dr Reid had already dismissed suggestions he was planning to scrap the system of star ratings, which he described as "one of the most popular things we have done".

The target regime has been credited by the Government for helping to bring down waiting lists and improve treatment in key areas such as cancer and heart disease.

But it has led to allegations that it skews clinical priorities and staff are forced to deal with mountains of paperwork, taking their attention away from patients.

Speaking to NHS chief executives and senior clinicians in London, Dr Reid said targets were "indisputably" resulting in the quicker treatment of patients and expanding the NHS with more beds, wards and staff.

"NHS targets are working. They are driving forward the recruitment of more doctors, nurses and other NHS staff.

"They are ensuring that we have the biggest hospital building programme in the history of the NHS. And above all, targets have delivered speedier access to healthcare. Seven years ago, the maximum waiting time for treatment was over 18 months. By next month, it should have fallen to half this."

The 24 proposed new standards against which the NHS will be judged from April next year cover areas such as safety, cost effectiveness, patient focus and the healthcare environment.

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