Reforms row should act as a warning

Almost as quickly as it flared up, the row over NHS regulations seems to have subsided.

A week ago ministers had MPs, peers and leading voices from within the NHS on their back over new rules governing the contracting out of services.

Critics had argued the regulations breached assurances made about the extent to which competition would be deployed in the NHS.

An amended document has now been laid before parliament - and it seems to have appeased those who expressed concern.

The re-write has focussed on two key areas - under what circumstances contracts can be handed out without competition and to what extent anti-competitive practices are allowed.

In both cases, ministers say they have made it clear that the NHS is not being opened up to the private sector.

The early indications are the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which perhaps put most pressure on ministers with their outspoken criticism the weekend before last, is willing to give ministers the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, both the Royal College of Nursing and British Medical Association have cautiously welcomed the changes.

But that does not mean the "reforms issue" has gone away.

On 1 April the new system comes into force. If the last fortnight has proved anything, it is that the changes are likely to be one of the most controversial aspects of government policy in the coming years.