The Conservatives' public services policy group has made fresh calls to strengthen the role of the chief medical officer.

Launching a document intended to outline potential 'practical solutions' to enable the party to win the centre ground, the group's co-chairman Stephen Dorrell, a former health secretary, said a stronger CMO would provide a 'focus both for leadership within the clinical professions, and for public accountability for the delivery of health outcomes'.

Restoring Pride in Our Public Services also reiterated the Conservatives' pledge to place a greater emphasis on improving public health, including ring-fenced budgets to make improvements.

But there were no recommendations in the document that clarified what has been described as the 'incongruous' Tory calls for both local accountability and an end to accident and emergency and maternity changes (see 'Johnson praised for backing plans').

Joe Farrington-Douglas, senior research fellow for public services at the Institute for Public Policy Research, told HSJ that if the Conservatives were not prepared to close wards that were no longer needed, they risked wasting money that could otherwise be spent on public health.

'When it comes to the difficult choices you need to make in order to invest in public health they do seem to go for the politically simple option rather than saying "we would take tough choices",' he said.

The report called for the creation of a post modelled on the chief medical officer in the education sector, which the group called the 'chief education and skills officer'.

Mr Dorrell said: 'We believe there is a striking contrast between this developing role for the CMO - and by extension for the clinical professions as a whole - within the Department of Health and the pitifully inadequate voice of the teaching profession within the work of the education departments.'