Health minister John Denham this week faced an audience with the NHS Alliance - just days after the organisation had been ordered to rip out his foreword to its latest paper.

The radical paper - which suggested the NHS should be made independent from direct political control - was launched last week following last minute embarrassment when Mr Denham realised exactly what he was putting his name to.

The NHS Alliance was ordered to tear Mr Denham's foreword from every copy of Implementing the Vision: maintaining the values just two days ahead of its launch.

This week Mr Denham took to the floor at the alliance's 'Open all hours - open to all?' conference to announce the 40 successful primary care groups chosen to work with the government's primary care development team.

Introducing his talk, he said he 'was going to start with a foreword, but it seems to be missing'.

Mr Denham said the response from PCGs wishing to take on targets to speed up patient access and cut coronary heart disease had been 'excellent', with 122 bids.

Last month NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon had expressed concern that targets for 90 per cent of patients to see 'their primary healthcare professional' within a day 'were a bit stern' given that they included non-urgent cases.

But Mr Denham insisted: 'Local doctors and nurses clearly want to be a part of a national project that will help them to make a real difference for patients.'

Implementing the Vision: maintaining the values. NHS Alliance. 01777-869080.£15/£10 Alliance members.