Key NHS targets 'to be scrapped'
Key NHS targets are to be scrapped and management costs slashed by nearly half as part of a major shake-up unveiled by the coalition Government.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said GPs will no longer need to see patients within 48 hours, while the four-hour maximum A&E waiting time is being relaxed.
Central scrutiny of the 18-week referral to treatment target will also be ended.
Patients' campaigners expressed concern that the reforms could lead to a "free-for-all" where health providers were not held to account.
But Mr Lansley insisted people would still have the right to demand high levels of service.
"I want to free the NHS from bureaucracy and targets that have no clinical justification and move to an NHS which measures its performance on patient outcomes," he said.
"Doctors will be free to focus on the outcomes that matter - providing quality patient care. Patients will still be entitled to rights under the NHS Constitution, and the quality of their experiences and outcomes are what will drive improvements in the future."
Mr Lansley said the changes would help drive down the management bill for Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities from its current level of £1.85 billion to £1 billion by 2013-14.
Although NHS spending was set to rise in real terms over the coming years, it was crucial to make "immediate" savings so they could be reinvested in care, he said.
Costs should be cut by £220 million this year, followed by a £350 million fall in 2011/12. By 2013/14 the total reduction will be £850 million.