Hospital doctors deliberately discharge patients before they are treated to avoid NHS waiting time penalties, it was claimed today.
The allegation is one of a number of shocking examples of medical staff under pressure to meet government targets, according to a TV documentary.
ITV's Exposure programme carried out an undercover investigation in the Urgent Care Centre at Ealing Hospital in west London.
One patient waiting to be examined was told to take her own temperature by putting a thermometer in her ear.
The most striking bit of evidence I saw that they were fiddling their targets was probably on one occasion a doctor clearly discharged a patient on their system just so they would stay within the 4-hour target that they're given from the management. If they breach this target and patients aren't seen within four hours they incur a financial penalty.
Ealing Hospital said it was setting up an independent review to examine the claims.
Whilst we have not yet seen the programme, we take patient safety extremely seriously and as soon as we became aware of the allegations four weeks ago, carried out an urgent clinical visit to assess whether a safe service is being delivered. This found no immediate cause for concern and patients can continue to use the service with confidence. However, we have established a further independent clinical review to fully investigate the issues raised in the programme and make recommendations on any improvements that need to be made.
Care UK has strongly rebutted the allegations put to us in advance of ITV’s Exposure documentary. ITV has refused to allow us sight of any footage it has obtained by deception, but, while we remain committed to investigating and learning from any incident or concern shown, we believe that overall the programme will misrepresent the NHS approved standards, assessment processes and targets used in an urgent care centre and will use selective comments, which individuals were misled into making, to give an inaccurate picture of urgent and out-of-hours NHS care.
Exposure: NHS Out-of-Hours Undercover, Wednesday, 22nd July, 10:40pm, ITV