The government has pledged to scrap the four-hour waiting time target at accident and emergency departments.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the targets would be “abolished” under wider plans to rid the health service of any targets that have “no clinical justification”.
Mr Lansley said focus must be shifted to achieving the “best possible results for patients” rather than simply treating patients quickly in a bid to meet waiting time targets.
Mr Lansley made the comments in the House of Commons, where he also announced a full public inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
Mr Lansley said: “I’m going to abolish the four-hour A&E target.
“We are going to look, and we will look constructively, at how we can scrap the four-hour target as it currently exists and work on the basis of what the clinical evidence makes clear directly contributes to delivering the best possible results for patients.
“I will issue guidance to the NHS shortly, the purpose of which - to amend the A&E target alongside others - is in order to ensure that we deliver better quality.”
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham immediately put Mr Lansley’s plans under scrutiny, saying the government “urgently needs to give clarity to the NHS by explaining what alternative plans he has to stop waiting times rising again”.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said Mr Lansley had always been clear that in order to deliver continuous improvements in patient care, “targets that have no clinical justification will be scrapped”.
She added: “Some more details will be set out in a revised operating framework shortly.”