Gordon Brown will today execute a remarkable personal about-turn as he embraces Tony Blair's pet policy for freeing hospitals from Whitehall control.
The Labour manifesto will commit a Brown government to transferring power over every hospital to local managers, while hospitals that fail to raise standards within three years will be taken over. Mr Brown will insist his government retains its reforming zeal as Labour seeks to reel in the Conservatives' consistent lead in the polls and achieve a fourth consecutive spell in power.
Although the financial crisis means the Labour manifesto will be devoid of major new spending promises, the Prime Minister will place heavy emphasis on the need to continue “spreading excellence” in public services.
A commitment to turn all hospitals into foundation trusts by 2015 will be the centrepiece of Labour's manifesto promise to tackle under-performance in the NHS by sharing best practice.
The promise will represent a volte-face by Mr Brown who, as Chancellor in 2002, opposed the introduction of so-called foundation trusts by Mr Blair. As Prime Minister, Mr Brown has appeared unenthusiastic about their development. But he will today commit the party to complete the changes begun by Mr Blair.
There are 129 NHS foundation trusts in England with a joint turnover of more than £25bn, with another 93 yet to follow.