Jeremy Hunt has told NHS hospitals they must get back to meeting the target for seeing patients swiftly in A&E.
The Health Secretary told a Reform think tank meeting this was “critical for patient safety”.
The target of seeing 95% of patients in four hours has been missed in England for some time. There was a record low of 86.2% in December.
Mr Hunt demanded progress this year and said the target should be hit by March 2108, after new funding in the budget.
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £2bn for social care.
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Mr Hunt said the new money would help tackle the problem of patients who were fit to leave hospital having discharge delayed because of a lack of suitable care in the community. This is thought to have contributed to overcrowding in trusts.
The four-hour A&E target explained
- It measures the point at which a patient arrives at A&E to when they are admitted, discharged or transferred elsewhere
- It applies to all patients from those with life-threatening emergencies to minor ailments
- Hospitals are meant to achieve the four-hour target in 95% of cases
- The last time it was met was July 2015