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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Minister blasted over A&E target
By Nick Triggle
BBC News health reporter in Manchester

Dr Jennie Blackwell
Dr Jennie Blackwell criticised targets
A junior doctor has lambasted Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt over the government's target for most patients in A&E to be treated within four hours.

Dr Jennie Blackwell rounded on Ms Hewitt during a question and answer session at the British Medical Association conference in Manchester.

She said her hospital A&E department had been turned into a "war zone" as patients were sped through.

Ms Hewitt said targets had helped drive improvements in the health service.

Please, please, please reduce this target, it is awful for patients and awful for us
Dr Jennie Blackwell

Dr Blackwell, a member of the BMA's junior doctors committee, said that in the medical assessment unit (MAU) where she had worked, patients were being moved from A&E before they were ready in order to meet the target.

She said patients could end up waiting up to 10 hours, including the A&E wait, before being channelled to the right part of the hospital.

She said at times the ward, which does not have a waiting time target, was packed with trolleys and patients.

Danger

And Dr Blackwell, who would not reveal which hospital she worked at, added: "We have patients strewn all over the unit, sitting in non medical areas with serious medical conditions.

"It is frankly dangerous. We dread going to work, especially in the winter.

"Please, please, please reduce this target, it is awful for patients and awful for us."

Ms Hewitt, the first health secretary to address the BMA's annual conference, said she was willing to discuss the issue, but maintained targets had their place.

"Although they are crude, they are helping to achieve the much needed improvement in the service."

Dr Jonathan Fielden, deputy chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, said this problem had been raised by other doctors across the UK but he did not believe it was common.

"It is a particular issue where NHS trusts focus on a target rather than the whole process of care for a patient," he said.


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