Every school would have a school nurse under the Conservatives, Andrew Lansley told the party conference.

Every school would have a school nurse under the Conservatives, Andrew Lansley told the party conference.

In his keynote address he pledged that the needs of children would be placed at the top of his in-tray should he become health secretary.

And he vowed to improve maternity care and check the decline in the number of health visitors and district nurses.

And each school would have a nurse 'who supports a curriculum that incorporates healthy diet and lifestyle and provides advice on a one-to-one basis'.

Mr Lansley said: 'Child health has too long been a marginalised part of the NHS, where children are treated just as small versions of adults.'

Failure to take action would lead to an epidemic of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, schizophrenia and sexually transmitted infections, he said.

He also poured scorn on chancellor Gordon Brown's plans to give greater independence to the NHS.

'This from the man who has imposed more NHS targets than anyone,' he joked. 'From the man who blocked freedom for foundation hospitals. Heaven rejoices in a sinner who repents. But can you believe it? No.'

On Sunday, Conservative leader David Cameron said NHS professionals should be given more responsibility. 'Our response is to say to our nurses and doctors: yes you should meet higher standards, you should give patients more, but we're not going to tell you how to do it. We trust in your vocation.'