Last week's Healthcare Commission and Audit Commission report provides a welcome opportunity to take stock of the progress the government is making with its reforms of the NHS in England.
We are at a critical point and the jury is still out on many of the reforms. There is certainly potential for patients to benefit from them, but a great deal needs to be done to realise these benefits fully.
We know that patients are being offered greater choice, but this is yet to have an impact on the quality of care. And there is little evidence so far to suggest the modest increase in the use of the private sector is having a significant impact on quality of care or waiting times.
It is clear that greater effort is needed to improve the quality of commissioning, particularly by engaging GPs better, while much more work is needed to ensure the availability and quality of information about healthcare services. A mandatory system of national data collection needs to be defined and implemented. Without such information about public and private sector providers, it will be impossible to judge whether the NHS reforms as a whole have been a success.
Better information will help patients make better choices, assist GPs in understanding where the best quality care can be had for their patients and, above all, help primary care trusts have a better understanding of what health benefits they are getting for taxpayers' money.
Dr Anna Dixon, policy director, the King's Fund