NHS Figures Highlight Missed Treatment Targets

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Georgina Emsley

Solicitor, Medical Negligence

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NHS treatment figures for June 2016 showed that several important targets were being missed, including response times for ambulances and waiting times in A&E departments.

a doctor examining charts

NHS Missing Key Targets

NHS England's monthly performance statistics for June 2016 highlighted that:

  • 5% of patients wait more than 18 weeks for planned surgery
  • 30% of ambulances take longer than 8 minutes to reach the emergency scene
  • 5% of patients in A&E wait more than 4 hours to be seen
  • There has been a 23% rise in the number of patients experiencing delays in being discharged from hospital

Unfortunately, since 2016, the state of the NHS’ performance hasn’t improved drastically.

Updated Figures for 2023:

  • 8 Million patients were in a backlog in August
  • 1 Million hospital appointments were rescheduled
  • 10% of patients who attended A&E waited over 12 hours
  • 1 in 7 hospital beds were occupied by patients who were eligible for discharge

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If you have suffered because of medical negligence, get in touch with our friendly team to see how we can help you.

Minimising Avoidable Injuries

The NHS sets these targets in order to minimise the scope for patients suffering avoidable injuries. Accordingly, any delays in providing emergency care, planned operations, or in freeing up much-needed bed space increases the risk of patients suffering from avoidable injuries.

Modern clinical governance is aimed directly at analysing the entire system , in order to identify any weaknesses. Any weaknesses which are identified are bolstered by a system of protocols, policies, service standards and clinical guidelines which are in place in order to try minimising the risk of individual errors having catastrophic consequences.

This is the same system that is in place in aeronautics industries and in sports such as Formula 1. Despite this, these latest figures indicate an ongoing failure of a system designed to protect patients.

two surgeons operating on a patient

A Game of Russian Roulette

The missed A&E target alone means that over 185,000 patients were not seen within an appropriate timeframe. While not all of these incidents resulted in the patient sustaining further injuries and/or a worsening of their condition, with every missed target there is an increased chance of this.

In instances where delayed treatment caused further injury and/or a worsening of their condition, patients should make a complaint to the NHS directly, who under the Duty of Candour are required to carry out a full investigation and provide a detailed report of their findings, to their patient. Where a report highlights that injury was caused by a failure (breach of duty of care) an explanation with recommendations to improve treatment in future, and an apology should be given.

With each missed target, the NHS increases the likelihood of a detailed investigation which only strains their budget further.

Discussing the dangers of these missed targets, a member of our medical negligence team:

"Many injuries leave patients with symptoms that affect their general health, with their ability to work or to deal with the demands of everyday life seriously inhibited. These patients are likely to need compensation to help them to live with their injuries as best they can. As such, missing NHS targets is likely to lead to an increase in Medical Negligence cases."

"A common misconception is that compensation payments (and legal costs) reduce the amount of money available to treat patients. In reality, the two budgets are completely separate from each other and so winning your case does not deprive others of much-needed treatment."

"Missing these targets is like playing a game of Russian roulette and is a worrying indication that the system itself is under strain. The main concern is patient welfare, and it is disturbing that other safety procedures within the treatment process are not being followed."

"I recently obtained a five-figure settlement for a gentleman who fractured the scaphoid bone in his wrist at work, which is a very common injury. Had he been properly examined at A&E, he would have made a full recovery within 3 months. However, the A&E nurse was under pressure and failed to conduct a complete examination of his wrist or to advise my client that he should return to hospital within 10 days if his pain had not cleared up. She also did not make a clear written note of her examination in my client’s records."

"By the time the fracture was diagnosed many months later, my client had suffered a permanent injury as a result of the bone healing poorly. My detailed examination of his case showed that if the A&E nurse had properly examined my client, there was less than a 1% chance of the fracture being missed. A simple standard examination form in use at similar hospitals was not available and this hospital had been missing its four-hour A&E targets for a prolonged period of time when my client attended."

Getting Legal Advice

Unfortunately, litigation is often the only tool available to patients suffering from the consequences of missed targets. Many of our clients want to know that what has happened to them will never happen to anyone else but, sadly, we see the same mistakes being repeated time and again. These latest missed targets indicate that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

Our solicitor comments:

"Consent is key when it comes to prescribing treatment, with the autonomy and best interest of the patient, young or old, being at the heart of everything the medical profession now does. When this is called into question, it is for the court to determine whether sufficient information was provided, allowing the patient to make an informed decision, as opposed to undertaking what is simply standard medical practice in their situation."

"Where there has been no reasonable attempt to obtain a patient's consent, the doctor or medical authority in question can find themselves ruled to have caused a deliberate injury (a battery). It is also often necessary, however, to prove that an injury was caused by the drug or treatment in question."

"In cases where there is a dispute between the parents of a child or an adolescent patient and a clinical team over treatment, the court is guided, again, by what is in the child's best interest, which, in certain cases, overrides a lack of consent from the parent or child."

"What the release of the file regarding the Richmond Hill Approved School demonstrates is how far we've come since then. Consent aside, the level of information given to the boys back then would've been far less than is required nowadays. Whether the tests resulted in any adverse effects is unknown, although the drug had been approved for use on humans, so was not itself inherently dangerous."

"Another question hanging over these trials is whether – despite Home Office approval to go ahead – they complied with the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which was ratified in the UK in 1951. This could play a key role in any legal proceedings that arise following this recent disclosure."

"It is unclear whether any modern court would approve of what happened in 1967 applying the standards that were then in place, which is why it's important that incidents like these are out in the open and those affected are able to seek careful advice and legal redress, ensuring it never happens again."

two women talking, one is holding a clipboard

How We Can Help

If you have suffered medical problems as a result of the NHS missing targets, contact us today to see how we can help.

We will arrange a free claims assessment with you so that we can gather all the details of your case. We will listen to your concerns and determine whether or not your claim would likely be successful. We pride ourselves on being transparent with our clients, so we will always offer practical legal advice that you can rely on. You will know exactly where you stand when it comes to our service and our dedicated team of expert solicitors have extensive experience and the knowledge to guide you through the entire process. We want to make dealing with legal issues as simple and stress-free as possible.


www.simpsonmillar.co.uk. (2023). Hospital Negligence Claim | Simpson Millar Solicitors. [online] Available at: /medical-negligence-solicitors/hospital-negligence-claims/

www.simpsonmillar.co.uk. (2023). Accident & Emergency (A&E) Negligence Claims | Simpson Millar Solicitors. [online] Available at: /medical-negligence-solicitors/accident-and-emergency-medical-negligence-claims/

Institute for Government. (2023). Performance Tracker 2023: Hospitals. [online] Available at: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publication/performance-tracker-2023/hospitals.

www.england.nhs.uk. (n.d.). NHS England» Operational performance update. [online] Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/long-read/operational-performance-update-oct-23/.

Statistics (2019). Statistics» Monthly Hospital Activity. [online] England.nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/hospital-activity/monthly-hospital-activity/.

Georgina Emsley

Solicitor, Medical Negligence

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Georgina is a Solicitor who works in our Medical Negligence team here at Simpson Millar, based in our Manchester office.

She is a committed and highly reliable Solicitor with a track record of supporting clients through the process of making a claim to achieve the best outcome for them. Georgina has experience working on many high-value cases with a range of circumstances and complexities from start to finish, where she reviews medical records, liaises with experts and gathers evidence in order to negotiate the best possible settlement for her clients.

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