Allowing doctors and patients to design healthcare services could save the NHS £20bn by 2014, according to the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

In its discussion paper, The Human Factor: how transforming healthcare to involve the public can save money and save lives, it says the health service must move away from centrally driven directives and place responsibility for reform in the hands of the public.

Cutting the NHS’s biggest costs - treating obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes - will require healthcare that is delivered by people with the best understanding of the conditions, it says.

The paper adds that allowing communities to run their own health campaigns has reduced illnesses and boosted healthy living at a fraction of the cost of government-run campaigns.

National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts chief executive Jonathan Kestenbaum said: “The NHS does not have to choose between saving money and saving lives, or between cutting costs and reforming itself.

“It is possible to develop cheaper, more effective, patient-centred services and approaches to public behaviour change but only by adopting radical new ways of innovating within the NHS.”

He said that for the NHS to be successful, patients and clinicians needed to be put in control.

The report is backed by shadow health minister Andrew Lansley and Tim Kelsey of Dr Foster Intelligence.