The NHS needs to go on a "10-year diet" while the Government tries to get on top of the nation's finances, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The Health Secretary said that the most important thing for the NHS was a strong national economy.

Speaking at the King's Fund's annual leadership and management summit in London, Mr Hunt said that while the Government attempts to balance the national budget the NHS needed to "get through this difficult period".

When asked about the impact cuts to social care have on the health service and Government attempts to balance the national budget, Mr Hunt said: "We are under a great deal of pressure in the NHS and social care system because of our commitment to eliminate the deficit.

"In the end the most important thing for the NHS is a strong economy and the biggest risk would be if we were to lose control of our national finances.

"That means we have got to go on a 10-year diet while we get through this.

"At the end of that process, I have said before I am one of the people that thinks we will need to ask big questions about whether we need to devote a greater proportion of wealth to health and social care but we need to be in a position where we can ask that question in the first place which is why we need to go through this difficult period."

Mr Hunt also said that England is lagging behind the US when it comes to technology which is on the cusp of "revolutionising" healthcare.

He said Britain and the US are two countries that have done the most thinking about patient safety. But he said America was "streets ahead" with its use of technology.

Healthcare leaders at home should be open to what is happening in health services around the world, he said, adding: "Particularly the use of technology, in the US, I still think is streets ahead of us and that is about to revolutionise healthcare and we always want to be open to that."

He also said that this decade would be hailed as a transformative period for quality of care and safety for patients in the NHS.

"There was a lot of turmoil in 2005, there was a lot of discussion about deficits, there were big arguments about controversial reconfigurations and the NHS was as near to the top of the political agenda as it is today," he told delegates.

"At the end of that decade the previous Labour government delivered some of the shortest waiting times in the world for emergency and elective care.

"We are again in a period of turmoil and people are worried about quality and safety, they are worried about waiting times and they are worried about money - and financial pressures are greater than they have ever been, but I believe that by the end of this decade we will be able to look back and say, if the first decade of this century was the decade where we transformed access, this was the decade where we transformed quality and safety of care."

Mr Hunt was also asked about his agenda on openness and transparency, particularly his plans for medics to be able to use "safe spaces" to admit mistakes without fear.

A representative from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust told the Health Secretary that after encouraging reporting of incidents the response was a little "unnerving" and even "excruciating" at some points. She asked Mr Hunt what would happen in a trust that was not performing as well as the top London hospital trust.

He responded: "It's only when we start being open about when things go wrong that we will then take the action necessary to correct them."