The government got a partial vote of approval from Liberal Democrat health spokesman Nick Harvey, who told the NHS Confederation conference: 'I don't think they are going fast enough or making the progress they should.'

He added: 'I think the government has been too slow in getting on with the job, but is broadly now heading in the right direction by seeking to go about things in a pluralist way.'

The NHS had to expand the supply of its services, but also stem demand for them - which would mean a campaign on public health issues, he told the conference.

Mr Harvey called for a no-fault compensation scheme for medical injuries, which in a vote among delegates was approved by 66 per cent and rejected by 22 per cent.

He said there should be a medical injuries compensation board.' Such a body could oversee timely payment of no-fault compensation to those injured as a result of NHS care, 'he said.