Planned service reconfigurations must be reconsidered under “strengthened criteria” set out by the new health secretary today, including support from GP commissioners.

Andrew Lansley said decisions on service change had to meet four criteria. They are to focus on improving patient outcomes, consider patient choice, have support from GP commissioners, and be based on sound clinical evidence.

A Department of Health statement said: “Local NHS organisations, which have already started to look at changing services, will need to make sure that that their plans meet these criteria before continuing.

“This change will provide an opportunity for GPs to work with community leaders and their local authorities to take the reins and steer their local services to improve quality standards and outcomes.”

Mr Lansley said in the statement: “Today I am fulfilling the pledge I made before the election to put an end to the imposition of top-down reconfigurations in the NHS.

“We are committed to devolving power to local communities – to the people, patients, GPs and councils who are best placed to determine the nature of their local NHS services.

“Local decision-making is essential to improve outcomes for patients and drive up quality.”

On Wednesday HSJ revealed Mr Lansley had effectively halted London’s major reconfiguration plans, which were unpopular with many GPs.

In today’s statement he said he wanted NHS London to “lead the way in working with GP commissioners in their reconfiguration of NHS services”.

He said: “A top-down, one-size fits all approach will be replaced with the devolution of responsibility to clinicians and the public, with an improved focus on quality.

“It will be centred on a sound evidence base, support from GP commissioners and strengthened arrangements for public and patient engagement, including local authorities.”