This is a godsend for the opposition, obviously. Insulating the NHS budget from cuts may have been a political masterstroke in 2007, and ‘I will cut the deficit, not the NHS’ may have been a sharp election slogan. But it is idiotic to ringfence the NHS simply to re-arrange the bureaucratic furniture and destabilise the system.
We've been here before. The previous government excelled at wasting money in order to be seen as being active. It takes rare feeble-mindedness to repeat the calumny in the current fiscal landscape. If there is a time for re-organising NHS bureaucracy on a stunted market basis, this is not it.
The government hopes that Lansley’s reforms will yield savings in the future. Maybe, but the savings are speculative at best. It is barely credible to suggest there will be significant financial dividends in replacing the 10 Strategic Health Authorities and 152 primary care trusts with 600 GP consortia. Deeper problems lie in wait for Lansley.