Peterborough Hospitals NHS Trust, which was rated one of the 35 best performers in England last summer, is likely to be one of those given more freedom from Whitehall control.

The three-star trust has been held up as a model by Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, for a string of innovations in patient care. The trust has submitted proposals to rehouse the hospital, which is divided between two sites, in one complex.

Peterborough was one of the first trusts to set up a "transformation" unit – a team of eight people who work with GPs, nurses and consultants to see how services can be improved.

But it is some of its smaller developments which have made a marked difference to people in the 30-mile surrounding area.

Elderly people needing cataract operations no longer have to undergo a series of visits to their doctor, optician, outpatients and inpatients. Instead 26 opticians are accredited to book patients directly for surgery. Nurses telephone patients to take a medical history before the surgery takes place and the patient returns for just one post-operative visit.

GPs now refer patients directly to clinics for hernia repairs and minor knee surgery, rather than obliging them to join outpatient queues. A trust-wide "drug formulary" has also been introduced so that GPs' surgeries, hospitals and clinics use the same brands of drugs and save money by bulk ordering.

Mr Milburn wants trusts such as Peterborough to have more financial and management freedom so that, for instance, if they wanted to appoint a new consultant, a lengthy application does not have to be submitted to Whitehall.

Peterborough would like to provide more hip and knee replacements, and work more closely with social services to provide better care for elderly people so that only those who are seriously ill have to spend time in hospital.