The Conservative Party has warned that NHS spending was "by no means a blank cheque" and that the rate of expenditure will be cut in the event of the party winning the next general election.
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured) said NHS services would have to "tighten their belts just to meet demand", while announcing that the Conservatives could not match Labour's investment and could only guarantee "small increases" in health spending.
"We've pledged real-terms increases in NHS expenditure to help our health service rise to the challenges of the 21st century," said Mr Lansley, speaking to NHS managers in Birmingham.
"A real-terms increase in expenditure has to go hand-in-hand with real savings, which can be ploughed back into frontline services to meet the needs of an ageing population and drag up our healthcare results."
He added: "At a time when other parts of the public sector will be facing painful funding constraints, how will NHS staff look taxpayers in the eye and justify the priority they receive without real improvements in efficiency and results?"
Mr Lansley's speech followed that of Chancellor Alistair Darling, who indicated Labour would cut public services after the recession, adding that he would not flinch from "hard choices on public spending".