The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned yesterday that ministers were guilty of "micro-management gone mad" when it attacked the "craziness" of the Government's targets for the NHS.
Professor Alison Kitson, executive director (Nursing) of the RCN, called for the number of targets covering the NHS to be slashed from about 400 to a maximum of 20. They were distorting clinical priorities and damaging morale in the health service.
Her comments came as Michael Howard, the shadow Chancellor, launched a fresh attack on the system of Government target-setting, condemning public-service goals as a "complete shambles".
Professor Kitson said: "We do believe having 400 targets is just crazy. It's total craziness in a system which is already overburdened." She said there was anecdotal evidence that Whitehall officials were even becoming involved in the care of individual cases as the Department of Health struggled to meet targets announced by ministers.
She said: "One of the strongest messages from the health sector is it is micro-management gone mad and clinicians, who are identified by the Secretary of State as people able to change things, are not being allowed to get on with things and are having to respond to targets set by men and women in Whitehall."
She added: "You should be looking for a small number of broad targets that people at local level can interpret."
She spoke after giving evidence to members of the Commons Public Administration Committee as part of a wide-ranging investigation into target-setting.
John Seddon, an occupational psychologist, told MPs the system of targets was "inherently flawed", warning that "targets actually undermined achievement of purpose" by causing appalling waste.
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