Clinically-led review of NHS access standards

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out an ambitious but practical roadmap for the future of the health service that builds on the undoubted success of the last 70 years and ensures it will continue to deliver high quality care for all over the coming decade. The Government has now confirmed the long-term funding settlement – providing the NHS with the sustainable financial basis on which to deliver the Plan.

The history of the National Health Service is one of evolution and innovation, with each generation using the latest technology and treatments to meet the changing needs of patients and the public.

It is well documented that standards and performance targets have incentivised and encouraged improvements in care and outcomes, and provided assurance on quality and availability of care when people need it. It is also recognised that in some cases the same targets can restrict the ability to innovate or result in other unintended consequences.

NHS access standards review

The NHS National Medical Director was asked by the Prime Minister in June 2018, to review the core set of NHS access standards, in the context of the model of service described in the NHS Long Term Plan, and informed by the latest clinical and operational evidence, recommend any required updates and improvements to ensure that NHS standards:

  • promote safety and outcomes;
  • drive improvements in patients experience;
  • are clinically meaningful, accurate and practically achievable;
  • ensure the sickest and most urgent patients are given priority;
  • ensure patients get the right service in the right place;
  • are simple and easy to understand for patients and the public; and
  • not worsen inequalities.

The review is being undertaken in three phases:

  1. Consider what is already known about how current targets operate and influence behaviour
  2. Map the current standards against the NHS Long Term Plan to examine how performance measures can help transform the health service and deliver better care and treatment
  3. Test and evaluate proposals to ensure that they deliver the expected change in behaviour and experience for patients prior to making final recommendations for wider implementation

To support this work a Clinical Advisory Group has been established, which includes members from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Physicians, Nursing and Emergency Medicine, Healthwatch, and senior members of NHS England and NHS Improvement clinical teams. The group input into each phase of the review.

Reporting progress

A commitment to undertake further testing in all areas and continue to engage with partners, key national stakeholders and through our test sites to gain expert advice and input locally.

The progress of each individual workstream is available in each of the respective pages accessible via the left hand menu or below: