I have to commend the government and the Secretary of State for Health; it is a strength to do a U-turn if the idea is rubbish. But it’s better still to do a quick impact analysis before announcing a policy, and get it roughly right thus avoiding wasting so much time. Not to worry, previous governments have a poor track record too; Tony Blair was fond of forcing things through anyway, and Margaret Thatcher announced "a great victory" every time she did a U-turn and even gave a speech about "the Lady’s not for turning" (immediately before giving away massive concessions to Brussels).
So what do we expect to happen next?
To be fair, that’s anybody’s guess. GPs, especially GP partners, do make the best decisions because they have to live with the long-term consequences; they will still be around in 15 years when a person they didn't treat develops some awful condition and needs 24 hour care. Salaried GPs average 2 years in a single job and are less inclined to worry about the future, or the costs of care, and more inclined to follow the guidelines ("refer everyone for further tests"). GP partners in a GP Commissioning Group might keep health care costs low, but only if they are interested.
GP partners became GPs in order to deliver the very best health care to each individual patient. They didn't join up to look at numbers and forecast trends. They may be good at it, but it doesn't interest them (and most are actually terrible at it). So they will delegate to managers, and the managers will make decisions and think that it is their right to play god with health care, and nothing will change. There are so many ways we could have done this to achieve better results.
If Primary Care Trusts (PCTs - the organisations that decide how many of each type of treatment will be needed, so hospitals staff up and buy equipment) were made accountable to a panel of GP partners then PCTs would be a lot better at their job. This doesn't mean the GPs have management meetings every week, it means the GPs can say "you did a bad thing there, you're fired" or "by this time next year we want more of this", and then go back to their day job of saving NHS and UK taxpayer £billions.