Ministers have been accused of using Brexit to bury the news the government could controversially scrap four-hour A&E waiting targets.
NHS England revealed on Monday that it was trialling new measures which could see the target ditched across the country as early as next year.
Instead, hospitals would record how long patients spend in A&E, with health bosses claiming it could prevent “tens of thousands” unnecessary hospital admissions made each year in a bid to meet the current target.
But speaking in the Commons on Monday, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth suggested the target was being scrapped not because of “clear medical evidence”, but “pressure from Downing Street”.
“The four-hour A&E target allowed the last Labour government to deliver some of the lowest waiting times in history and it hasn’t been met by this government since July 2015,” the Labour frontbencher said.
“Indeed, 2.8 million patients waited beyond four hours in A&E last year.”
The announcement – which included news about new one-hour waiting targets for patients in a mental health crisis – came the day before MPs were due to have their say on Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the second meaningful vote.
Ashworth told HuffPost UK there was “widespread concern” from patients and medics over the proposals.
“Making this announcement while the government staggers through the latest Brexit shambles looks like an attempt to avoid proper scrutiny,” he said.
“It’s hugely disappointing that no minister has even bothered to come to the Commons to be held to account.”
Meanwhile, the Labour Party tweeted from its official account on Tuesday: “With Brexit negotiations in tatters, the Tories reckon it’s a good day to bury bad news: they’ve scrapped the four-hour NHS waiting time target.”
But a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the new measures had been set out by NHS England.
“As part of the clinical review of standards we note NHS England has set out proposals which will be trialed in a number of areas across England,” they said.