NHS chief executive David Nicholson has not ruled out a cash cut in NHS funding from 2011.
Speaking to Health Service Journal just after chancellor Alistair Darling finished his Budget speech, Mr Nicholson stressed that the increases in spending promised in the last operating framework were safe.
‘We said in the operating framework that for 2010-11 there would be 5.5% uplift on the allocations and that is safe.
‘We also said we would be able to draw down £800m out of the surpluses over the next two years and that is safe. We also said we would deliver 3% efficiency through the tariff in 2009-2010 and 3.5 in 2010-2011 - that is safe. So all the things we said in the operating framework are absolutely safe.’
The Budget said £500m could be saved by the end of 2010-2011 through world class commissioning and another £500m through cutting the length of hospital stays. Mr Nicholson emphasised that these numbers were included in the 3% and 3.5% efficiency targets.
‘Any saving through world class commissioning or shortening length of stay is taken within those numbers. There is nothing over and above what I have described to you,’ he said.
Mr Nicholson’s message is that the service must use the relatively generous settlement for the next two years to prepare for the tough environment it will face from 2011.