The first ever 'contract' between the health services and the Government has been announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. It includes plans to improve 'the patient experience' and mental health care.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged leading doctors to cut NHS mortality rates, which he said - for England - currently stand among the worst in Europe for respiratory diseases.
Mr Hunt told MPs there was a "wide and unacceptable" postcode lottery in the performance of NHS trusts.
He called for measurable progress in the diagnosis of life-threatening illnesses, adding that doctors would save as many as 20,000 lives a year if England was as good as the best European nation when it came to treating major diseases.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the new NHS Mandate represented a "wish list" that was "dangerously at odds with the reality on the ground".
Responding to Jeremy Hunt's introduction of the contract in the Commons, Mr Burham cited fresh warnings from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which said the NHS is "sleepwalking into a crisis".
According to the RCN, more than 30,000 NHS jobs are at risk of being cut. It said between May 2010 and July this year, the number of qualified nurses working for the health service was reduced by more than 6,000.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the introduction of a condensed new NHS Mandate is a "very historic moment" for the health service.
He said the contract made the health service "operationally independent" and sent out a "very strong signal (that the Government is) ambitious and optimistic about how the NHS can improve."
Mr Hunt told the Commons:
This is the first time that we have tried to represent the operational independence of the NHS by disciplining ourselves as ministers to condense what we want the NHS to focus on into a document of only 28 pages.
We are removing the ability of ministers to performance-manage the entire NHS from behind their desks in Whitehall. We are replacing that with operational independence for professionals on the front line and the way that we are doing that is by limiting ourselves to specifying outcomes, not specifying processes.
Patients will be able to book GP appointments online within the next three years, the Health Secretary will announce today.
By 2015, every patient in England will be able to book appointments, view test results and order repeat prescriptions over the internet, Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce as he sets out details about the first ever "contract" between the Government and the health service.
Patients will also be able to access their records online.
Ministers hope the move will make services more accessible to patients and alleviate the hassle of trying to get through to a GP surgery over the phone.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt set out goals to improve the nation's health through the first ever NHS Mandate later.
Ministers are hailing the Mandate as a "landmark" for the NHS, by ensuring the health service is held to account.
He will identify priorities including:
reducing avoidable mortality
improving patient experience
helping patients with long-term conditions such as dementia and diabetes
It is also expected to include pledges concerning improvements for maternity units and mental health services.
Ministers claim that the document gives frontline health professionals more power and independence to deliver care.
The Mandate will form an agreement between ministers and the NHS Commissioning Board, a new body which will supervise the new GP-led commissioning groups that will come into play when the NHS reforms take effect next year.