Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said:
'The proposals published today amount to substantial and far-reaching changes to NHS waiting times, and include changed targets for A&E, mental health services, cancer treatment and non-urgent care. It will be important to know whether these changes represent an overall improvement to the quality of care, especially as some patients may have to wait longer as a consequence.
'Over the last 20 years NHS targets have been instrumental in driving up performance and reducing excessive waits in the health service. But no targets should be set in stone; they need to evolve and change to reflect advances in clinical practice and changing national priorities.
'We welcome the proposed new mental health targets which could help to achieve parity of esteem. For example, the proposed standard that patients with urgent needs should gain access to liaison mental health services within one hour of referral in A&E departments aligns with the new standard for those with the most life-threatening physical needs.
'However, the effects of new targets are never predictable, which is why it is good that NHS England is looking to pilot and test these changes. It is vitally important that any evaluation is robust and made publicly available, to help ensure public confidence in these changes before any final decision is taken.'