A report launched today is to alter where surgery takes place, recommending that 80 per cent of operations are performed locally to the patient, while the remaining 20 per cent will be performed in specialist centres.
The report by national advisor on surgery, professor Sir Ara Darzi, explores how surgery has been revolutionised over the last 20 years, with an increased appeal of keyhole surgery as it reduces the possibilities of infection.
Some surgeries have also been rendered unnecessary by advances in medication.
Professor Sir Ara Darzi said: "As surgery has improved, it has also become more specialised. To take advantage of this specialisation we need to ensure that the most complex cases are being treated by the most skilled surgical teams.
"The NHS is not yet providing surgery in a way that makes the most of the progress in surgery over the last 20 years."
Patricia Hewitt, health secretary, said of the report: "Patients will be pleased to know that they can receive high quality surgical care closer to their homes with short waiting times.
"This report highlights the need for changes in surgery to happen now – not in ten years time."
She went on to announce a new National Clinical Advisory Team which will provide support to guide local NHS services in implementing new proposals.