A significant pile of cash could be redirected into front-line health services by slashing the amount of NHS red tape, according to Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester earlier this week, Lansley laid out plans to cut the level of NHS bureaucracy by a third from £4.5 billion to £3 billion a year by 2013-14.

“Primary Care Trusts. Strategic Health Authorities. The health Quangos. And the Department of Health itself. They spend a total of £4.5 billion in administration every year,” he said, adding: “So we will cut that bill by £1.5 billion within four years. All this from the back office to the frontline. We will tolerate no waste. No inflation. No poor value for money in NHS budgets”.

Lansley slammed Labour for “a wasted opportunity” in delivering real improvements to the health service over the years, which has seen “nine reorganisations in nine years, costing £3 billion”. In addition, he stressed, there are now 80% more managers, nurses are spending a million hours a week on paperwork and yet productivity is down 4%.

Accusing Labour of allowing "wasteful spending on bureaucracy" to get out of control, he promised that a Conservative government would deliver "lean and good-quality management" and a shift of funds back to the front line, which will help give the health service a stronger footing to whether the growing demand on its resources.

“For people’s needs to be met, we must deliver greater productivity, improved efficiency and better quality,” he said, and this will, in part, be achieved by pushing power out from the centre into the hands of health professionals and patients. Patients should have more control and choice, he argued, and said under a Tory government a choice of consultant as well as hospital would be introduced.

But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb told BBC News Online “any cuts to NHS budgets must be managed with extreme caution”, and that "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".