NHS boss calls for more cash or warns of 'consequences' for patient care

The health service will struggle to meet demand if it does not receive more money in the Budget next month, its chief executive has warned MPs.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told a parliamentary health committee that sticking to the current funding plans for the next two years would make it "very hard" to deliver services.

Funding is scheduled to rise by an average of just 0.6% between next year and 2020, the tightest funding squeeze in NHS history.

Mr Stevens said that if Chancellor Philip Hammond does not increase the funding in the Budget on November 22 there will be "consequences" for patient care.

"Looking forward to the pencilled-in funding for the next year and year after, it looks extremely challenging," he said.

"And if it is not amended it is going to be very hard for the NHS to do what is being asked of it.

"Prospects for next year and the year after depend on decisions that will be made on 22 November.

"It is right that democratic government decides (the) NHS budget but we should say that those decisions have consequences. Decisions taken on 22 November will determine the shape of the NHS for the next two years."

Mr Stevens' comments came as a report from the Care Quality Commission warned that the NHS is "straining at the seams" and that quality of care is "precarious" because of the huge demand on the health service.

His direct call for extra money and the warning that any failure to deliver will endanger patients will heap pressure on Mr Hammond as he considers his first Autumn budget.

Sky News understands that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has begun discussions with the Chancellor over an increase in health funding next year, but no final decision has been made.

The Chancellor is already facing calls to fund the lifting of the 1% pay cap that has applied to public sector staff, including nurses, with new money rather than from existing budgets.

Speaking earlier in Parliament Mr Hunt told MPs that "the pay cap has been lifted", but said any pay rise could depend on NHS staff delivering on productivity targets.

Opposition parties and unions have demanded that any pay rise should not be funded from existing budgets, and Mr Stevens agreed.

He said that it was not reasonable for staff to continue to live with pay cuts "but a pay rise of that nature must be financed."

Mr Stevens also said he had not carried out any contingency planning for a "no deal" with the EU over Brexit.

He said he had been encouraged by reassurance offered by Mr Hunt to the 150,000 EU staff employed in health and social care.

"I have not heard any noises that they will not remain welcome," he said.