Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the four-hour A&E target should now only apply to ‘urgent’ cases.

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Hunt said the government was ‘committed to maintaining’ the target, however if the standard was to be ‘protected’ it might only need to be applied to patients with urgent needs rather than minor problems.

Mr Hunt said: “This government is committed to maintaining and delivering that vital four-hour commitment to patients.

“But since it was announced in 2000, there are nearly nine million more visits to our A&E, up to 30% of whom, NHS England estimate, do not need to be there, and the tide is continuing to rise.

“So if we are going to protect our four-hour standard, we need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within four hours – but not all health problems, however minor.”

Currently each patient who goes to A&E should be seen within four hours. However hospitals across the UK have been struggling to achieve this target.

One A&E declared a critical black alert recently, as it struggled to cope with the high demand. At peak times they were seeing one patient every 90 seconds.

Dr Holland, President of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “Healthcare professionals and medical bodies across the country are reporting difficulties from the front line en masse, yet we are faced with dismissal.

“Mr Hunt is completely out of touch if this is what he believes to be an accurate reflection of the situation.”

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