What shapes people’s experiences of A&E is often not how long they wait, but the quality of care they receive and how that care is delivered.

What makes a good A&E?

In January 2019, Healthwatch England worked with YouGov to ask 2,000 adults from across the country to rank 10 factors that would make a good A&E service.

While all of the options offered were considered important, guaranteed waiting times such as the current four-hour target were considered far less important.

  1. Ensuring that the treatment patients receive is of the highest quality.
  2. Assessing patients quickly on arrival and reassuring them they will be seen in a medically appropriate timeframe.
  3. Seeing patients in priority order – most urgent cases first – even if this means some people may have to wait longer.
  4. Highlighting that systems are in place to monitor people while they wait in case their condition gets worse.
  5. Ensuring there are staff on hand to provide support while people wait, such as offering pain relief or providing drinks.
  6. Giving people an estimated waiting time on arrival and keeping them informed if things change, such as a major incident.
  7. Making information about current waiting times easily available to people before they turn up at A&E and providing information about alternative services.
  8. Treating or admitting all patients within a guaranteed timeframe (currently four hours) regardless of what attention is required.
  9. Reassuring patients that if they end up waiting longer than expected it won’t result in a parking fine in the hospital car park.

— Imelda Redmond, National Director, Healthwatch England