In his first speech in the post Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has urged NHS workers to listen to patients instead of government.
He also promised to cut red tape to free resources for cancer care and other frontline services.
"I don't want the whole of the NHS to wait to hear what I have to say," he said in a speech in London.
"I want the service to listen to patients, to take responsibility. To realise how much patients know about their need, especially for those living with long-term conditions. We will empower patients as well as health professionals. We will disempower the hierarchy and bureaucracy."
In his speech, at a health centre in Bromley-by-Bow, he defended proposals to impose fines on hospitals if patients are readmitted as an emergency within 30 days of being discharged.
Mr Lansley said the move â" where hospitals will be paid for initial treatment but not paid again if a patient is brought back with a related problem â" would result in a "much better system". Hospitals would be responsible for ensuring that discharged patients are properly cared for in their home.