The NHS needs urgent action, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has told his new opposite number.

In a letter welcoming Alan Johnson as health secretary, Mr Lansley said the parties had to work together to offset the 'constant upheavals undermining NHS morale'.

Commissioning in primary care needed to improve, Mr Lansley said, and a moratorium should be declared on major changes to accident and emergency and maternity services.

Now is a 'critical time. The NHS needs leadership and direction. Urgent actions, as well as strategic direction, are needed,' he said.

Mr Lansley pointed to criticisms of the Department of Health in the Cabinet Office's capability review. 'Leadership and reform are urgently needed to give the NHS the long-term, coherent framework it so badly needs,' he said. 'Only if we work together, can we deliver a realistic and coherent vision for the NHS, in contrast to the constant upheavals and confusion that undermine NHS morale and performance.'

He said the urgent issues were: training for junior doctors; commissioning; morale; a review of the national IT programme; and a moratorium on major reconfiguration.