Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has marked this year as “the reset moment” for NHS finances, from where the service can move into the rest of the Five Year Forward View.
He said: “This year, now, really matters. We’ve got to use 16/17 as the reset moment to get our finances, our performance, back in a place where we can then pivot off to what the rest of this five year settlement looks like.”
Speaking to delegates at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, the chief executive of NHS England said: “The next few years are going to be bloody tough.
“I don’t think it would be prudent for us to assume any additional NHS funding over the next several years,” he said, adding that if any extra funding were to become available “it should be going to social care”.
In a statement, Stephen Dalton, interim chief executive of the NHS Confederation said he agreed with Stevens.
He said: “Future extra investment needs to go towards a sustainable well-funded social care system.
“The NHS recognises that without social care funding both the NHS and wider care sector will suffer.
“Our members are up for the challenge and are working with colleagues across all parts of the health and care system to change the way we deliver care.”
In his speech, Sevens added that the belt tightening was not with out purpose.
Last year, Stevens said, the NHS cut £650 million from clinical commissioning group (CCG) budgets for health services and primary care “to hold a contingency reserve going into this year”.
“We want to be able to release that funding and spend it on mental health services and community services,” he said, emphasising the need to deliver on the agreed financial control totals.
Stevens acknowledged “the very genuine pressures that are building in general practice”, saying that the NHS has “a huge effort on to respond”.
He added that the next 18 months are critical and, quoting the British Medical Journal (BMJ), he said: “If general practice fails the whole of the NHS fails.”
“We have a shared interest in really ramping up our implementation effort on primary care,” he said.