NHS bosses are to meet to discuss “what it is possible to deliver for patients with the money available” after the health service in England did not get the funds it requested from the Treasury, officials have indicated.
Sir Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England, said the money promised by the Chancellor “will go some way towards filling the widely accepted funding gap”.
But he said the NHS “can no longer avoid the difficult debate” on what can be provided by the health service on the funds it is operating on.
The NHS England board will discuss the matter next week, he added.
In a statement, Sir Malcolm said: “The extra money the chancellor has found for the NHS is welcome and will go some way towards filling the widely accepted funding gap.
“However, we can no longer avoid the difficult debate about what it is possible to deliver for patients with the money available.
“The NHS England board will need to lead this discussion when we meet on November 30.”
Meanwhile, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, national medical director for NHS England, said the money promised by Chancellor Philip Hammond will “force a debate about what the public can and can’t expect from the NHS”.
He warned that longer waits for care seem “likely/unavoidable”.
The comments come after the Treasury pledged more money for the NHS in England, with the specific aim of helping the health service “get back on track” with soaring waiting lists and A&E targets.
Mr Hammond acknowledged the NHS is “under pressure” as he committed resource funding of £2.8 billion to the NHS in England.
This includes £350 million to cope with pressures over the coming winter, £1.6 billion in 2018/19 and the rest the year after.
Earlier this month, NHS England boss Simon Stevens said that without more money for the NHS, the number of patients waiting to be admitted to hospital in England to have surgery will rocket to five million by 2021.
This means one in 10 adults will be on the waiting list, he said.
Mr Stevens also indicated that controversial rationing policies adopted in some parts of the NHS could be rolled out nationally without more money and he said expansion plans for mental health and improvements in cancer care could stall.
He drew on a new analysis by the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust which calculated the NHS needs £4 billion more next year to prevent patient care from deteriorating.
In his Budget speech, Mr Hammond said: “We acknowledge that the service remains under pressure and today we respond.
“First we will deliver an additional £10 billion package of capital investment in frontline services over the course of this parliament to support the Sustainability and Transformation plans which will make our NHS more resilient. Investing in an NHS fit for the future.
“But we also recognise that the NHS is under pressure right now.
“I am therefore exceptionally, and outside the Spending Review process, making an additional commitment of resource funding of £2.8 billion to the NHS in England – £350 million immediately to allow trusts to plan for this winter, £1.6 billion in 2018/19 with the balance in 19/20, taking the extra resource into the NHS next year to £3.75 billion in total.
“Meaning that our NHS will receive a £7.5 billion increase to its resource budget over this year and next.”