Eight out of ten operations should be carried out on patients in their local area, says the government's national advisor on surgery.
Surgical technology is now far more advanced
Professor Sir Ara Darzi said the remaining more complex cases should take place at specialist centres by highly skilled surgeons.
He said developments in surgery over the past 20 years have changed how operations can be carried out.
Bernard Ribeiro, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, welcomed the call.
In his report, Sir Ara said developments like lasers and keyhole surgery had led to a quicker recovery for patients and less risk of infection.
He said procedures such as hernia operations could now be done as day cases in local settings.
Sir Ara said: "Whilst I have been practising as a surgeon there have been major advances in surgical techniques.
"Yet we could be doing much more minimally invasive day case surgery.
"The NHS is not yet providing surgery in a way that makes the most of the progress in surgery over the last twenty years.
"I hope my report will be a step in changing that."
President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Mr Bernard Ribeiro said he welcomed the intention for patients to have their surgery done locally, as long as the necessary facilities were provided.
He said: "This trend towards day case surgery is evidenced by increasing numbers performed by NHS consultants each year in many different settings."
He added it was vital that surgery be carried out by trained and qualified surgeons, and said the college supported the requirement that surgeons with the most experience in specialist areas should be operating on the most complex cases.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants' committee said: "Delivering care closer to patients' homes, safely, will require an investment in many of our existing district general hospitals, not the fragmentation and risk of closure some are currently facing.
"This is an opportunity for doctors, managers and patients to work collaboratively across primary and secondary care to maintain and improve hospital services, whilst developing new ways of caring for patients."
Care closer to home
Speaking at the Royal College of Surgeons, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "Patients will be pleased to know that they can receive high quality surgical care closer to their homes with short waiting times.
"The fact that patients can now have high tech surgery in one day, leaving a small scar and having a faster recovery time, will also be appreciated.
"By working more effectively and using surgeons' and theatre time efficiently, we can deliver an even better service for patients."
Stephen O'Brien, shadow health minister, said: "No one disputes that the NHS must change as new technologies develop.
"However, when changes to the NHS are necessary, they must be backed by evidence demonstrating definite improvements for patients."
Norman Lamb, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "The government are sending out conflicting messages about where they want health delivered.
"They are calling for more services closer to home, yet local hospitals around the country are being shut or having services downgraded in a bid to tackle mounting debts."