Hospitals, care homes and GPs could be judged against a new set of patient rights following a radical overhaul of standards to be announced by the health watchdog.
Doctors and nurses would be issued with new guidelines under proposals to be launched today which will set out an "unambiguous baseline" for care.
The new charter of rights could see hospitals taken over by external experts, bosses dismissed and units closed if standards were continuously breached.
The plans - which must first go out to consultation - are set to be rolled out in hospitals before they are extended to adult social care and other sectors later in the year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.
David Prior, the CQC chairman, said patients would be encouraged to complain if the level of care they receive fails to meet the new standards.
"For patients and their families these fundamental standards will be an unambiguous baseline: if they see or receive care that falls below that line, they should report it at once," he told The Times.
"We will give people who lead hospitals clear guidelines about what good care looks like so they know that patients know what to expect."
According to the newspaper, the new minimum standards would be displayed in hospital wards, in full view of patients and staff.