At the end of July, the Government published its second annual report. It charted the progress we are making in delivering our key commitments.
In many areas there is real progress. The economy is strengthening. Interest rates are low. Inflation is on target. Unemployment has fallen and long term youth unemployment is down by 60 per cent. The minimum wage is in place. Devolution is happening. The number of children aged 3 to 7 in classes of 30 or more has been halved.
And in the health service, waiting lists are over 60,000 below the level we inherited. The biggest hospital building programme in the history of the NHS is well under way - 37 new hospitals in the pipeline and 18 of them already under construction. Over ??100 million is being spent on modernising every accident and emergency department that needs it. ??60 million extra is going into cancer services. Forty per cent of the country is covered by NHS Direct, the new 24-hour nurse helpline. By the end of next year everyone will have access to this great new service.
But there is still a lot to do - particularly in our public services. The people of Britain - whether they are parents, pupils, patients or passengers - rightly expect modern, fast and convenient public services. And I determined that it will be done. But it will take time.
My mission in politics, in Government is a mission to transform, to make this country in a world of huge change fit for the future, a fairer society and a stable prosperous economy.
People can see it happening in the economy with more people in work and living standards higher than ever before. They can see it now in schools. They are seeing it increasingly in hospitals, as we invest and modernise. Of course it takes time, there are great problems still unsolved. It has to be done consistent with wise and sensible spending. But step by step in its fundamentals, Britain is getting better, not for the short term but in a way that will last for the long term.
Modernising the NHS so that the quality and speed of its service are the envy of the world will take years of hard work.
But if we are to achieve step-change improvements in our public services then all of us involved in the public services - politicians, managers, professionals and support staff - must all be prepared to change and adapt.
That is why I am delighted to be here today to open this marvellous new ambulatory care and diagnostic centre. It symbolises two things about our drive to modernise the public sector, which continues to be the top priority for this Government.
First, this ACAD project has put patients - not the professionals - at the very top of the agenda. You have analysed each stage of the patient's journey and then designed both the building and the pattern of care to meet their needs.
So when a patient comes for their appointment not only are they welcomed in this magnificent reception area but, if they are here as an outpatient they find that all their tests can be done at the same time on one site. A modern, convenient, one-stop assessment centre.
And if the outcome of the consultation is that a patient needs an operation they are given a fixed date there and then.
And when they come in for that operation each part of a patient's care - from the anaesthetic through to recovery - is delivered in accordance with an individual plan worked out in advance. And a building that mirrors this ethos. Each part specially designed for the part it has to play.
What we have here is the embodiment of the new NHS. High standards of care matched by convenient arrangements for patients. Indeed the care and convenience you are providing for the people of Brent has set the standard for the rest of Britain to follow.
Our ambitions for the NHS are high. I want it to be the best. I want people to have the confidence of knowing they will get quality care wherever they live and whenever they need it. And, as they do here, patients must be able to get prompt and convenient advice and treatment.
If we are to deliver this vision - and I am determined that we will - then it will mean the NHS providing a whole new range of consumer-focused services.
Why is it that patients have not been able to choose when they want to go into hospital? It's because the needs of the system have come before those of the patient. The result has been that it has been the hospital who decides when they can fit you in, rather than the other way round. That is no longer good enough.
People have busy lives juggling work and family. In today's world we book things to suit ourselves. I want that same principle to be at the heart of our new NHS.
Today I can announce a major step forward in our drive to bring patient convenience into the heart of the NHS. As part of our ??20 million booked admissions programme, 60 more hospitals and clinics will offer patients the facility of pre-booking a hospital appointment that suits them. Nearly two million people will benefit from being able to choose a time to go into hospital that fits in with their work, child care, and other domestic commitments.
Today's announcement builds on the success of the 24 hospitals which since last year have been piloting the idea of direct booking from the GP's surgery or outpatient clinic. All part of a programme that over time I want to see extended nationwide. And when it is complete it will mean that the NHS has the most advanced and patient-friendly arrangements for delivering your care of any health care system in the world.
I have no doubt that in time booked appointments will prove to be as much of a revolution for the NHS as the literacy hour and numeracy hour have been for primary schools. It will change the whole way the NHS organises care and over time it will change radically people's relationship with the NHS. What's more, booked appointments make sense financially. They will help to cut the cost of the million or so occasions each year when people do not turn up for their hospital appointment. Missed outpatient appointments alone cost the NHS around ??250 million a year.
But if booked appointments are such a good idea why, you may say, are they not being introduced throughout the health service immediately?
Well as you know better than most, pre-booking appointments is a simple idea but it requires a lot of effort and preparation to make it work. Your hard work and commitment to new ways of working are the second factor symbolising our drive to modernise the public sector.
You cannot have improvement without change. Most of those providing our important public services know that and are working with us to modernise the public sector.
The British people want the best from their public services and their public servants. So we have to re-examine how we do things, how we can raise standards, how we can improve efficiency and how we can provide better customer care.
That is exactly what you have done. You have worked at agreeing new clinical protocols between GPs and hospital doctors to underpin the new booking system. You have developed new IT systems and new types of jobs to co-ordinate the scheduling of appointments and theatre sessions. You have redesigned the role of nurses and other staff and trained them to take on extra skills. And you have changed the hours and ways of working. It has taken three to four years of hard work - and there are still things I know you want to improve.
But the important thing is that you are rising to the challenge of modernisation. You recognise the need to change. It is that approach I want to see throughout the public sector. Not just in every hospital, clinic and GP surgery, but in every classroom, college, police station, town hall, and train station.
This is the challenge for all of us in public service. Is your service the best it can be? Are you matching the highest standards? Is the service you provide convenient, reliable and swift for the people who use it? Are there others in the public and private sectors you can learn from? In short, how can we do better?
This ambulatory care and diagnostic centre came about for two simple reasons. People here had a vision that things need not be as they were. That they could be better. And they had the will to make change happen.
It is that vision and the determination to turn ideas into action that I want the whole of the health service and for the whole of the public sector.