The 18-week target measures waiting times for hospital operations from a patient’s first GP appointment and the DoH hopes every pathway to be within that time frame by the end of 2008.
Health minister Andy Burnham said that the 18-week target was an ‘absolute priority’ for the NHS and PBC must be used to achieve it.
‘The 18-week target represents an end of waiting and waiting lists as we know it,’ he told a conference of the NHS Confederation in London last month.
‘It’s the last leg of a long journey and a bridgehead to a different era in the NHS.’
He said that PBC was crucial to this, adding: ‘We won’t get anywhere near developing this target unless clinical engagement runs through it — I hope we can break through some of the cynicism around targets.’
DoH primary care czar Dr David Colin-Thomé said that PCTs could support schemes that met the target without telling GPs. He said GPs were turned off by the mention of targets but PBC could ‘achieve the target without actually saying “I want to achieve 18-weeks”.’
He added that PCTs should look at how they can ‘tap into the incentives around PBC’ and use them to construct schemes that will meet the 18-week target.
David Stout, chief executive of Newham PCT in East London and the newly appointed head of the NHS Confederation’s PCT network, said that GPs needed to be tied in to achieve 18-weeks but PCTs don’t need to sell it as delivering a target’.
‘Eighteen weeks is not high on the PBC agenda,’ he said. ‘But plans tend to be around care pathways so there’s good reason to think it may help.
‘You don’t have to sell it as delivering the 18-week target, but you have to tie clinicians in.’
He said that GPs would ‘not be turned on by a centrally-driven target, but by outcomes for patients’ and concluded ‘we need to harness that enthusiasm.’