Former health secretary Stephen Dorrell (Con, Charnwood) said an 'obsessive commitment' to competition threatened to undermine efforts to integrate services.
Speaking at a King's Fund and NHS Alliance event on commissioning last week, he said the real 'radicalism' in the NHS was not the Health Bill but the drive to make £20 billion savings over the next four years.
He said better integration of services was key to meeting the challenge because 'silo-based traditions' of delivering care were expensive. He added: 'If we are going to rise to the challenge we face, we now have the urgent, drop-dead requirement to deliver a degree of integration that we have talked about but never succeeded in delivering.'
Mr Dorrell said integration was not compatible with an 'obsessive commitment to introduce competition in every stage of the process'.
But he added: 'The proposition that a commissioner should be deaf to alternatives is something that would be an improper use of public funds. So the commissioner should be open to alternatives.'
Mr Dorrell said the coalition's record on healthcare would be judged on whether it succeeds in delivering this 'unprecedented improvement in efficiency'. He said: 'The efficiency challenge has to be met because that's what makes the weather in the NHS.'