The Tories believe £1.5bn a year could be saved on bureaucracy
Large sums of money could be saved and put back into front-line services by cutting back on NHS bureaucracy, the Conservatives say.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley made efficiency a central theme of his speech on Monday to the Manchester conference.
He believes a third could be shaved off the annual £4.5bn cost of quangos and NHS management in England.
Mr Lansley said bureaucracy has spiralled out of control under Labour.
In a wide-ranging speech, he said nurses were being bogged down by paper-work, while top-down targets had stopped staff putting patients first.
He also set out proposals on a range of other topics.
He said a Conservative government would allow all patients to decide which doctor or surgeon treats them in hospital by publishing performance tables on every medic.
So far the medical profession has been fairly resistant to the idea as they argue the best and most experienced doctors tend to take on the most complex cases that by their very nature have the worst outcomes.
Data is already published on a hospital-by-hospital basis, with some specialisms such as heart surgery giving data down to a unit level, which incorporates groups of doctors.
Mr Lansley also promised to protect people from social care costs mounting in old age.
He said a one-off £8,000 payment would be introduced to act as an insurance premium so that people did not have to sell their own homes to pay for care homes.
And he once again reiterated his desire to reform dentistry, starting with the re-introduction of school check-ups.
On spending, Mr Lansley pointed out that running costs for primary care trusts, management bodies which oversee services locally, have risen from £1.43bn to £2.14bn in the past four years.
In particular, he said money could be saved by cutting back on the use of management consultants.
NHS quangos are another source of spending that could be curbed, he said.
Nearly £2bn is spent each year on the arms-length bodies.
Other budgets that could be looked at would be the £200m cost of running the Department of Health as well as the £100m spent on the 10 strategic health authorities that oversee care on a regional basis.
Mr Lansley said over the course of four years the £4.5bn bill in this area could be cut to £3bn, freeing money to be spent on front-line care at a time when more and more pressure is being put on NHS funds.
The health service has its funding guaranteed until 2011, but after then it may face a freeze or even cut in spending.
The shadow health secretary said: "We will tolerate no waste. No poor value for money in NHS budgets."
But Steve Barnett, chief executive, NHS Confederation, which represents health managers, said the spending squeeze would still require cuts in other areas.
"It should be remembered though that while there is potential for savings in bureaucracy, the scale of the task for the NHS in meeting the £15bn to £20bn efficiency requirements it needs is huge.
"We will not find the money we need to save just by cutting red tape."
And Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb added: "An enormous amount of public money has been wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy in the NHS, but any cuts to NHS budgets must be managed with extreme caution.
"Andrew Lansley is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks he can wield an axe to primary care trust budgets without it leading to cuts in front-line staff."