England will become a place where people from all over the world will come to "see how healthcare should be", Tony Blair has said.
The prime minister this afternoon visited University Hospital Birmingham to meet staff and to issue a strong defence of his market reforms of the NHS.
Following a week in which union leaders savaged the changes at the TUC in Brighton, and NHS staff at five supply depots voted to strike against privatisation, Mr Blair also praised the hospital staff for their work.
"The really important thing about today's health service is it's an NHS that is absolutely true to its values but changing with the times," he said.
"It makes the most use of the new technologies and also recognises that you need the professional dedicated staff that will make it all work.
"This is going to be a place where people will come from all over the world and say: 'This is how healthcare should be done.'"
In conjunction with his visit, Downing Street issued a statement detailing the progress made in the NHS under Labour, including a fall in waiting times, and expansion of choice and the growth of foundation trusts.
Mr Blair also highlighted how, thanks to the government's investment, there were now 85,000 more nurses and 32,000 more doctors in the NHS than a decade ago.
Speaking at the site of a new hospital at University Hospital Birmingham, the prime minister said it was an "inspiration" to see his plans come to fruition.
"It is one of the strangest things being in government as you agree with certain proposals and then it passes out of your out tray and you do not think of it for some time," he said.
"But then you are here - this is going to be one of the most cutting edge hospitals in Europe."
Mr Blair's visit will bring to mind the Downing Street memo leaked last week outlining how he would conduct a tour of Britain's hospitals and schools before stepping down as prime minister "on a high".
However, the King's Fund was quick to dampen his enthusiasm, insisting that it was too early to make a judgment on the government's healthcare record.
"The government has made significant strides in reforming the health service with big reductions in waiting times, and progress has been made on improving care in cancer, heart disease and mental health," said chief executive Niall Dickson.
He continued: "Some aspects of the reform agenda have the potential to improve patient care. But all of this could be unhinged by the widespread financial deficits facing the health service.
"Large, underlying deficits in some local areas need to be tackled as a matter of urgency, while the reforms will continue to flounder if the government fails to get doctors, nurses and other health professionals fully on board."