The NHS must ensure patient outcomes and clinical evidence are at the heart of any changes to health services, and all service changes must be led by clinicians and patients, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said this week.
Mr Lansley (pictured) outlined new, strengthened criteria that he expects decisions on NHS service changes to meet. They must: focus on improving patient outcomes; consider patient choice; have support from GP commissioners; and be based on sound clinical evidence.
Local NHS organisations, which have already started to look at changing services, will need to make sure that that their plans meet these criteria before continuing, he said.
"We are committed to devolving power to local communities – to the people, patients, GPs and councils who are best placed to determine the nature of their local NHS services," said Mr Lansley.
"Local decision-making is essential to improve outcomes for patients and drive up quality."
This change will provide an opportunity for GPs to work with community leaders and their local authorities to take the reins and steer their local services to improve quality standards and outcomes, he added.
Mr Lansley said: "I want NHS London to lead the way in working with GP commissioners in their reconfiguration of NHS services. A top-down, one-size fits all approach will be replaced with the devolution of responsibility to clinicians and the public, with an improved focus on quality.
"It will be centred on a sound evidence base, support from GP commissioners and strengthened arrangements for public and patient engagement, including local authorities."