You have an invisible illness.

It is 2010, you have been sitting in an Accident & Emergency waiting room for 3 hours and 50 minutes waiting to be seen.

Of the people before you who has been seen, on average 21% were admitted to hospital. You are not like them though, as you have a special condition, completely invisible and symptom free.

As you have been sitting there for almost 4 hours this condition will start causing problems. Not for you, but for the Doctors and Nurses who see your invisible illness climax.  Something you may not even be aware of will start to cause problems for these Doctors. The cure is to admit you to hospital. As you approach sitting there for almost 4 hours your invisible illness strikes home hard. You now have a 66% chance of being admitted to hospital compared with 21% of everyone else who was seen before you.

Your invisible illness that made you three times more likely to be admitted to hospital, regardless of what you went to A&E for, was targetitis!

The disease was caused by the existence of a 4 hour target on waiting times in A&E.  The affected medical staff’s ability to deal with your needs and instead they dealt with the needs of the hospital managers to meet their targets.  Being admitted to hospital costs money, it is stressful and if you are three times more likely to be admitted then it is unlikely that you should have been admitted at all. So you end up being treated for targetitis, an illness you didn’t have until you arrived at A&E where the targets used to live.

Can you spot the target?

This graph shows the time in minutes that patients waited in accident and emergency departments in hospital before they were either seen, treated and discharged, or admitted to hospital.

This is in the past. The 4 hour waiting time target was abolished. Waiting times have gone up, the number of people who wait for more than 4 hours has increased by 63% but nobody suffers from targetitis now, as they won’t be admitted to hospital unnecessarily because a target has to be met.

This entry was posted in command and control, setting a numerical target is like..., targets, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Targetitis

  1. The govt may say the target has been scrapped but it’s still there (like police targets). See my (as yet unanswered letter) sent to Mr Lansley which was posted on another blog site –
    Great and very prolific blog by the way – keep up the good work!


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Just read your letter/post. Whatever you went into A&E for, you certainly sound like you contracted Targetitus when you were there. So does this 4 hour target still exist or are sections of the public sector carrying on as if it does because they are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome from so many years of being held hostage to external targets?


      • Not sure. It might be a bit of both. I was explicitly told at hospital that the 4 hour target still existed, but I only know the NHS from a ‘user’ perspective. In the police, although the government ostensibly abolished targets, they are still very much alive and I suspect this is largely because some senior managers don’t know anything else.


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