Commenting on a report outlining the principles behind junior health minister Lord Darzi's vision for the health service, NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards said: 'This new guidance is very welcome in sharing good practice and helping reassure the public about what they can expect.'

He added: "However, we need to recognise that the substantial challenges around service change on the ground will not be overcome by clear guidance alone. For example, the NHS needs to take into account value for money to ensure that the needs of the whole population are best met, which requires trade-offs.

"If existing services are to remain open until new services are established, NHS organisations will need to use surpluses to allow for double running costs. The NHS also needs to improve its planning and modelling skills. We believe the guidance needs to give more emphasis to engagement of all staff and planning the workforce changes necessary as part of service change."

For more on the report, read Darzi report reveals service change plans