Gordon Brown has praised NHS staff as the service enters its 60th year, adding he wants to see a health system that "concentrates on care as well as cure".
The Prime Minister claims the NHS needs to improve to become "personal to needs of the patient".
Mr Brown also signalled his intention to press ahead with a constitution for the NHS in his new year message to workers.
He told nurses: "Over the course of the next year the Department of Health, under Alan Johnson's leadership, will be setting out how the NHS needs to continue to reform to meet the new challenges of 21st century healthcare and 21st century lives. Reform and change which we will work with you to achieve to create a better NHS.
"And we will also examine how all these changes can be enshrined in a new constitution of the NHS, setting out for the first time the rights and responsibilities associated with an entitlement to NHS care.
"I believe these are steps vital to securing the health of the NHS for the next 60 years. They will require a broadening and a deepening of reform to ensure that the NHS as a whole attaches the same priority to a personal and preventative service as many of you already reflect in your own day-to-day decisions.
"And I believe they will transform the experience of the NHS for millions of people in this country."