Changes to the NHS will be appropriate to each community, health minister Lord Darzi has pledged.
The surgeon, who is leading an ongoing review of reforms needed in the NHS, has set out in his latest report the eight steps that will take place before changes occur.
He has also made five pledges to reassure patients and medical professionals.
Lord Darzi's promises come ahead of his final report on the next stage of NHS reform and follow calls from health groups for people working in the NHS to drive forward changes.
His pledges say change will benefit patients; be clinically driven, locally-led and involve patients and carers.
The eminent clinician also promised that old services would not be withdrawn until new and better services are in place.
Steps in the change process include the local NHS carrying out planning and needs assessments; independent clinical and management assessment; and a formal consultation period.
Local authorities can review decisions and the overview and scrutiny committees will be able to refer decisions to the health secretary if they believe that the proposal is not in the interests of local health services.
Lord Darzi promised that change would not happen simply "for change's sake" but to improve patient care and save lives.
"The focus of my report on the next stage of NHS reform will be how we can enable local clinicians and patients to be the driving force of improvement and change in the NHS," he added.
"These proposals I am setting out today are only the first part of that. Empowered patients and empowered staff are the key to world-class standards".
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has expressed concern with today's report, saying the contents sound "extremely ominous".
"Lord Darzi is tripping over himself to say there isn't another big, top-down reorganisation of the NHS coming; unfortunately he has only heightened suspicion that that's exactly what this is," he warned.
"Today's announcement sounds all too much like a sweetener to prepare us for a set of proposals next month that the government knows people will find very hard to swallow."
Unison has responded more positively to the report, saying the emphasis on clinician and patient involvement is "very welcome".
NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon added: "Now we need to see clear evidence that the NHS supports him and that there is a real change in the way the health service operates.
"Frontline clinicians and managers should be the power source of change instead of merely being 'engaged' and 'consulted' about change directed from the top."