Ian Dalton, head of NHS Improvement, said fundamental changes in the way services are delivered were needed to ensure the survival of the NHS.
And he said hospitals needed to do far more to ensure patients got the right care at home, warning of a 300 per cent variation in the average length of stay in hospital for some conditions.
“If the NHS is to survive as the country’s most loved institution over the next decade we need to fundamentally change and improve,” he told the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester.
“It’s clear that the NHS is at a pivotal point in its history. If we do nothing, in 10 years’ time the rise in emergency admissions would require us to build – and staff – 80 new DGHs [district general hospitals] – just to stand still - that isn’t going to happen! So we have to find a different way,” he said.
Unless we do this, we won’t manage next winter or cope with the pressures we’re seeing all year roundIan Dalton, head of NHS Improvement
The regulator chief said the NHS models of care had “not moved with the times” since the creation of the health service 70 years ago, with far too many services concentrated in hospitals rather than the community.
“As much as I love acute hospitals, our models of care have not moved with the times. Take life expectancy – it’s increased by more than a day a week since 1948,” he said.
“After 70 years, the NHS is in need of rejuvenation so it can enhance and extend its life expectancy.”
The health official detailed new targets for the NHS to cut the number of “long stay” patients by one quarter.
“Unless we do this, we won’t manage next winter or cope with the pressures we’re seeing all year round,” Mr Dalton warned.