The health service must shift the focus of resources to primary care as the recession impacts on budgets, according to the NHS Alliance.

Alliance chairman Michael Dixon said yesterday:: “They need to work harder to re-engage frontline clinicians with the needs of the wider NHS, which go way beyond individual consultations with their patients.”

This will only happen if the government allows a greater degree of local accountability, moves care closer to patients and reduces the use of expensive technology, Dr Dixon said.

He told the Westminster Health Forum that at a time of economic instability, the government and the Department of Health must recognise primary care’s leading role.

He said: “McKinsey estimates that 40 per cent of patients don’t need to be in hospital beds. So we need to ensure that secondary care is used appropriately. We can only achieve that if we focus on primary care as an alternative provider of medical services.

“By encouraging local co-ownership, with patients as friendly critics, co-commissioners and co-providers will be able to work together to create a local health services that is much better suited to the needs of the local population.”