A new NHS bill which aims to stipulate maximum waiting times will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of history as it will no doubt produce an endless array of fiddles, anomalies and counterproductive unintended consequences.
That said, its eventual downfall might nevertheless contribute to some beneficial policy advancements in the short and medium term. For example, if linked to an extension of the patient choice agenda such an approach might eventually pave the way to a welcome step change in UK health provision. For while ministers recently talked about establishing a legal right so that NHS funded patients could automatically go private if they waited more than 18 weeks for treatment, the time is fast approaching when we should ask why any NHS funded patient should have to go into a state owned hospital or clinic?
Today, I believe no NHS funded patient should have to go into a state owned facility. All hospitals, clinics and care homes should be provided by a diverse and open independent sector that competes for patients and in so doing builds trusted brands. If the new bills further sets the NHS up to fail and therefore heralds the input of ever more private sector know how and expertise then I say bring it on.
Dr Helen Evans is Director of Nurses for Reform.