Ministers have announced plans for a new national NHS Leadership Academy, which will, for the first time, enable all NHS staff to have access to the same opportunities to develop their leadership skills.

The initiative will put nurses, doctors and other clinicians on an equal footing with non-clinical managers within the NHS, giving front-line staff the skills they need to transform the NHS into a genuinely patient-centred service, in which different services work together to provide integrated care, says the government.

Announcing plans for the Academy on the NHS' 63rd birthday this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said that NHS staff "do an incredible job," and added: "we can all be so proud that Britain's best-loved institution has been caring for people for more than six decades. But if we want the NHS to continue to be there for people in the decades to come, we need to modernise it."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley added that it is the "passion and dedication of NHS staff which we want to embrace and support through the NHS Leadership Academy."  By establishing this initiative, "I want to help all doctors and nurses develop the leadership skills they need to drive a truly world-class NHS," he said.

Health policy think tank The King's Fund welcomed the establishment of the Leadership Academy. "The time has come to value the role of leaders and managers in the NHS," said the Fund's chief executive, Chris Ham. 

"The establishment of the Academy is a positive step in that direction, taking forward the National Leadership Council's work and continuing to invest in future leaders," he added.

"Front-line NHS have shown they can work smarter, be more responsive and give patients better health outcomes. The challenge now is to make this the rule, not the exception," said Mr Lansley, who was speaking in Cambridge, where he said there have already been "huge improvements" for people with diabetes thanks to front-line staff taking the lead and helping people manage their condition.

Doctors at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge have initiated a project to work with local GPs and invest in community care to improve glucose control in people with diabetes and help improve their self-management. As a result, in-patient admissions fell 40% almost immediately, reports the Department of Health.

Based on these findings, it is estimated that rolling the pilot out throughout Cambridgeshire could save the NHS in the county around £5 million a year and, extrapolated up for the rest of England, it could mean annual savings of £400 million and huge benefits for patients, the Department adds.