The NHS Commissioning Board is to review the model of urgent and emergency services in England.
The evaluation, led by medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, will set out proposals for the best way of organising care to meet the needs of patients.
Sir Bruce's team will work with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to develop a national framework offer to help them ensure high-quality, consistent standards of care across the country.
He said: “The NHS is there for all of us and should offer appropriate, effective and rapid care whenever and wherever it is needed.
"Treatments for many common conditions such as heart attacks and strokes have evolved considerably over the last decade and are now best treated in specialist centres. Yet we know people want their A&E nearby.
“This makes me think we need to review the increasingly complex and fragmented system of urgent and emergency care, so that sick, anxious and often frightened people can get what they need when they need it.”
The NHS Commissioning Board, which will be responsible for CCGs from April, stresses that local commissioning “will be at the heart of this review”.
It aims to enable CCGs to shape services for the future and put in place arrangements that meet the needs of patients. It says it will work closely with CCGs to ensure the views of all those with an interest are taken into account. It plans to publish emerging principles for consultation in the spring.
In its planning guidance, published late last year, the NHS Commissioning Board said it would review urgent and emergency care as part of plans for more seven-day services.
As well as seven-day working - a new policy announce last week - the review aims to help CCGs find the right balance between providing excellent clinical care in serious complex emergencies and maintaining or improving local access to services for less serious problems.
NHS Confederation chief executive, Mike Farrar, said: “Local urgent and emergency care services are seeing demand rising, year on year. There is no getting away from the fact that the current structure of these services needs to change if we are to secure the best quality.
“The review by Sir Bruce Keogh will help clarify the best arrangement of services. It is essential that patients, local communities, and their representatives - including local and national politicians - are properly engaged in the debate. No change is not an option.”
The NHS Commissioning Board also says it wants to improve public understanding of the best place to go for care. By helping the public to go to the right place first, both they - and those who have very serious illnesses and injuries - will be seen more quickly by specialist clinical teams with the right qualifications and facilities.
In future, planning closures of hospitals and A&E units should take account of the review's conclusions, the emerging evidence and the national framework, according to the Board.