Consultation has begun on how standards in the NHS in England should be measured. The Government says it wants to move away from the national targets imposed by the previous Labour administration to a "set of outcome goals", focusing on how well care and treatment work for patients.

Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, launched the consultation yesterday, saying such goals would enable patients, the public and Parliament to hold him to account for NHS performance. He pledged to scrap targets which had no "clinical justification" – while denying that the new outcome goals were just a new set of targets.

Mr Lansley said: "I want to free doctors and nurses to focus on what really matters – better results for their patients – instead of them being stifled by top-down targets."

The British Medical Association welcomed the move towards focusing on patient outcomes but said many difficult questions still needed to be answered, such as how the success of the NHS in achieving these goals would be measured.