'Prompt access to care is important to patients and targets have helped play a part in driving up quality of care. While there has been criticism of the performance management system that accompanied them, targets have proved effective in driving down waiting times.
'In removing the 18-week referral to treatment target, we will now have to see whether patients' rights and publishing data are sufficient to prevent waiting times creeping back up.
'It is important to improve the quality of our community health services. However, there is a danger that rapidly pushing forward the separation of PCT commissioning from the provision of services could result in a missed opportunity to genuinely transform community health services.
'There is a strong case for ensuring close alignment between community services currently provided by PCTs and GP practices. Therefore, the decisions taken about the future of community services should be informed by the views of GPs, not least because they have an increasingly significant role in commissioning health services.
'Cutting management costs is a bold move to create savings. Yet improving NHS efficiency will not come primarily from cutting the waste of managerial overheads.
'Given the NHS faces a shortfall of up to £21 billion a year, improving productivity at the frontline will have the most impact. It is therefore vital that the NHS continues to invest in its leaders to engage frontline clinical staff in improving care quality and efficiency.'
Notes to editors:
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