A former chief executive of the NHS says that scrapping key health service targets sends out a "risky message".
Lord Crisp (pictured) warns that the government needs to make sure waiting times are still considered an important issue in the NHS.
His comments come in the wake of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's announcement this week that the four-hour maximum A&E waiting time is being relaxed, while GPs will no longer need to see patients within 48 hours.
At question time, Lord Crisp, chief executive of the NHS from 2000 to 2006, told health minister Earl Howe: "While I think what the government actually announced very recently was some very minor and probably quite sensible changes to targets, you also sent a very mixed message.
"The message you have sent is about localness, which is very welcomed, but also a very risky message that waiting no longer matters.
"How are you going to ensure that people in the NHS understand waiting is still a very important issue?"
Lord Howe replied: "I believe the message you want sent has actually been sent by the NHS chief executive in his letter to NHS bodies. It is certainly a message the government wishes to send, that timeliness is important.
"A great deal has been achieved, we don't want to squander that, but we do think that clinicians now should be given the responsibility to prioritise patients and treatments for themselves and not have central performance management dictated from above."