Planned spending rises will not enable the NHS to meet growing demand for healthcare services, the NHS Confederation has warned.
The independent body, which represents 95% of NHS organisations, admitted the NHS faces a "potent cocktail of financial pressures", even though the government plans to issue above-inflation spending increases for the NHS, while other departments face average cuts of 25%.
However, the NHS is still expected to make efficiency savings of around £20bn by 2014, despite Chancellor George Osborne pledging to ring-fence spending on health and international aid.
The NHS Confederation fears proposed cuts to council budgets could lead to significant reductions in social care – which could place further pressure on the NHS.
NHS Confederation Acting Chief Executive Nigel Edwards (pictured) said: "The country faces very serious financial issues and everybody has to play a part in finding the solution - for that to happen there must be a frank and honest debate about the implication of the decisions being taken.
"The public need to go into this with their eyes wide open. The NHS may have some limited protection to its budget but it still faces a potent cocktail of financial pressures.
"We need to deal with funding increases which, while ring-fenced, will not be adequate to deal with growing demand, one of the biggest reorganisations in the NHS's history and the pre-existing need to find between £15-20bn of savings."
A Department of Health spokesman added: "The funding of social care is being considered as part of the Spending Review – it would be unhelpful to speculate before decisions have been taken, especially around the issue of support offered to those who are most vulnerable.
"Ministers have recognised that reform of the social care system is urgently needed to ensure it is sustainable and fair."
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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"I completely agree with the nurse from Lancs [see below]. The system WILL collapse in time if the demand side remains unrestricted. The capacity/supply side by definition will always have constraints, hence the inevitable imbalance. It is part of life to own the consequences of one's actions, and health is obviously no exception. Past government messages ducked this, merely focusing on patient rights – not responsibilities. It's time for that to change if the truly needy in our society are to continue to get free healthcare at point of need" – Chris Maude, location withheld
"If the NHS budget was doubled tripled or quadrupled it would still not be enough to meet the demands of an ever-demanding public. The same public that will not take responsibility for its own health. You see the same people time and time again clogging up the system with petty complaints cough, cold, spot on finger, could go on but you get the picture. A constant drip drip leading to a massive drain on resources. ps. [see below] our babies get called in at 8wks for assess and 1st jabs together" – Nurse, Lancs
"So time to force the general public to take a bit more responsibility for their own health, take some basic medication of script – paracetamol costs about 16 pence to buy OTC why is it still prescribable with dispensing costs etc? And there are lots of other things that could be done to save money and resources. Why do babies still get invited for 6 week checks and get brought back at 8 weeks for jabs, one comprehensive check at 8 weeks would not make any real difference to the outcomes but time postage paper etc would all be saved" – Name and address withheld