Caring for patients in the community and their own homes and saving hospitals for the seriously ill and those needing complicated operations could be the way forward for the NHS, a report has claimed.

The NHS Confederation believes the whole NHS system should be overhauled to make it more efficient and more effective. Its report says limiting inpatient care in large hospitals to those with life-threatening illnesses and patients needing acute care and treating others elsewhere could be an effective strategy.

It also suggests the new commissioners should work with service providers to help the NHS best serve people and develop more health services in the community and carried out in the patient’s home.

The new paper from the NHS Confederation’s community health services forum, entitled Transforming Local Care, says people need to change their attitudes about where healthcare should be delivered from hospitals to the community.

The organisation is now asking the government and NHS Commissioning Board to work together and make sure the funding for health and social care aids the move towards caring for patients in the community. It puts forward ideas including cash incentives for preventing health problems as well as early intervention and integrated working.

And the confederation argues that money saved by making things more efficient should be ploughed into setting up health services in the community.

Interim director of policy at the confederation, Jo Webber, said for a long time people have automatically associated health care with hospitals. But she said that while major hospitals were the best places to offer acute care, they were usually not ideal for those needing long-term care or treatment.

She said Britain already had excellent examples of care being delivered in the community, improving standards and the experience of the patient as well as helping make the NHS more efficient.

She added: “It is time we started thinking differently right across the country, and making sure investment supports innovative service delivery that supports patients’ independence and recovery.”