From April 2011, the accident and emergency four-hour waiting time standard will be replaced by a set of clinical quality standards, developed with clinicians, which will support quality care without the damaging distortion of the four-hour tick-box target. On the basis of clinical advice, I have immediately reduced the threshold for meeting the four-hour standard from 98% to 95%.
I am sure that the Secretary of State will want to join me in congratulating the staff at Wythenshawe hospital in my constituency. Last year 85,000 patients were seen in the accident and emergency department, 98% of them within four hours. Can the Secretary of State explain to my constituents why he has decided that this year 4,500 of those patients will not need to be seen within that time?
As I told the right hon. Gentleman, I made that decision on the basis of clinical advice. It was clear that the 98% standard was distorting clinical care for patients. There is no benefit for patients if, for the purpose of meeting a four-hour target, they are discharged inappropriately, transferred to wards when they have not been thoroughly looked after in the accident and emergency department, or indeed put in an observation ward for 48 hours, which is under the scrutiny of the accident and emergency department but ticks the box. None of that helps patients. I will focus on what is actually in the best interests of patients, and delivers the right outcomes for them.