After all the coalition promises that therewould be an end to the avalanche of reformsthat Labour sent crashing over our beloved National Health Service, we get a fat whitepaper proposing that 80 per cent of the NHS budget in England be devolved to GPs; plansto grant all hospitals foundation status by 2013; and a relaxation of the cap on numbersof private patients that hospitals can treat.
The speed with which the plans have unfolded has taken everyone by surprise. But slowly people are coming off the back foot to examine whether the latestreforms will lead, as some have claimed, to "the denationalisation of health-care services in England".
So far there is –of course –no consensus,though almost all agree that the government will guard the principle of providing a “service free at the point of delivery”. But what role will GPs play? Is the private sector really waiting to pounce, as some believe? Will the dreams of dismantling some of the costly bureaucracy be fulfilled? It would be nice to think that all will become clear. But this isthe NHS we’re talking about.