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Joint RCS and RCP response to NHS England’s clinically-led review of NHS access standards

11 Mar 2019

Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), and Professor Andrew Goddard, President of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), said:

“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.

“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.”

Notes to editors

1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care. @RCSnews

2. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office: telephone: 020 7869 6047/6041; e-mail:; for out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832

3. Royal College of Physicians (RCP)
The RCP's core mission is to drive improvements in health and healthcare through advocacy, education and research. We are an independent patient centred and clinically led organisation that drives improvement in the diagnosis of disease, the care of individual patients and the health of the whole population both in the UK and across the globe.  @RCPLondon

4. For more information please contact the RCP Press Office: Linda Cuthbertson, head of PR and public affairs; telephone: +44 (0)20 3075 1254; email: 

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