'Patients could have to start booking appointments in A&E units, and those with only minor ailments wait many hours before they are seen, under a proposed shakeup of NHS targets.
NHS England chiefs are examining whether to relax the longstanding obligation to see 95% of A&E patients within four hours.
They are also under growing pressure from hospital bosses to ease another key NHS waiting time target – the duty to give patients non-urgent surgery within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP.
NHS England is reviewing its major service-wide treatment targets and will include any changes in its forthcoming 10-year plan. This will spell out how it will spend the extra £20bn it is due to receive by 2023.
It is studying the operation of urgent and emergency care services in parts of Denmark where all but the most ill patients are expected to ring to make an appointment at an A&E unit. If adopted in England, it would force many of the 22 million visitors to A&E every year to pre-book before arriving.
A senior NHS source close to the discussions said: “If you book an appointment you are seen within four hours. If you just turn up and are very sick you are seen immediately.'
Read more: A&E appointments system proposed in NHS targets shakeup
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