Northern Ireland’s poor record on key health targets exposed in UK wide performance tracker

BBC News Online has launched a Health Tracker – usefully covering the whole UK for a change – to monitor targets in three key areas: accident and emergency departments, cancer care and planned operations and treatment. It will run for a year and you can keep checking on progress in your Trust area.

While  they say it’s difficult exactly to compare like with like in the  four “ nations” because of policy differences on  choosing the  range of targets, Northern  Ireland does not come off  well.

Northern Ireland has been moving the goalposts

Targets started to be introduced across the NHS in the early years of the 21st Century. There has been an odd bit of tinkering since, for example both England and Scotland started off expecting 98% of patients to be seen in four hours but have subsequently reduced this target to 95%.

But nowhere has chopped and changed as much as Northern Ireland when it comes to planned operations and care.

It has a 13-week target from the point at which a decision is made to admit a patient to the start of treatment

It last hit this in 2013, when the threshold was that 60% of patients had to be seen within that time period. At the time performance was improving, and so the target soon moved up to 70% and then 80%.

Northern Ireland is failing to hit its targets despite making it easier to hit the goal for planned operations and care. Since March 2015 it has gradually reduced the target from 80% to 55% but has still not hit it.

Neither the A&E nor cancer targets have been met since they were set in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

The north-east is the top performing region in England. Services have hit their key hospital targets 71% of the time in the past year.

Twelve out of 135 English hospital trusts, four out of five Northern Irish health trusts and five out of seven Welsh trusts have failed to hit any target in the past 12 months.

Here is the target performance for the Belfast Health and Social  Care  Trust. You can easily check the four others. Only 35% meeting the target for planned operations and care, even though the target is waiting less than 13 weeks!

But the health service there could not get close to meeting the mark, and with performance dropping so did the target.

In March 2015 it stood at 80%, but since then it has been reduced to 55% – and yet the target has still not been met.

It last hit this in 2013, when the threshold was that 60% of patients had to be seen within that time period. At the time performance was improving, and so the target soon moved up to 70% and then 80%.

But the health service there could not get close to meeting the mark, and with performance dropping so did the target.

In March 2015 it stood at 80%, but since then it has been reduced to 55% – and yet the target has still not been met.

 

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London