I see the government has come up with the idea of measuring waiting lists by length of wait rather than number of people waiting. is not this something the Conservatives did several years ago?

DM Chelsea

No! This is an entirely new idea and not at all like the stuff that Virginia Ironside woman came up with in the 1980s or whenever it was. In any event, the number of people waiting tells you nothing except how many people are waiting, while the length of their wait tells you much more. But this is only the first phase of waiting-list management. The next stage is to get GPs to stop referring people to hospital in the first place. It is no use bleating; we all know that most people in hospital do not really need to be there - they're just having a rest while their tattoos or toenails are removed.

The third phase will be handing all your hospitals and clinics over to BUPA. Now only the forces of conservatism could possibly object to this. We all know that public sector managers are just killing time until their pensions come up, whereas private sector managers are driven by a sense of public altruism.

After all, BUPA doesn't have waiting lists does it? So it must be doing something right. Just like the new government! My, they have got into their stride quickly, I must say.

Can you explain the traffic-light system to me?

Traffic warden, Havering.

Your question's just the ticket! Well, traffic lights are a very good way to measure how well trusts are doing which Mr Milburn invented recently. Like all good ideas It is very simple and borrowed from somewhere else - in this case from the well known road illustrations.

This is how it works. You know when you're in the car and the lights go green? Well that means you really must get going. If they go red it means you have to stop what you're doing, and if they go amber that means something else. Actually real traffic lights can go red and amber at the same time, but I am not quite sure what that means. So. . . if you get a red light for, say, your cleaning, then that means you're doing OK and you can stop. If you get a green you had better get your skates on.