The NHS in England is reportedly facing a funding gap of up to £2bn for the next financial year.
Senior health sources told the BBC that there was a risk that rising costs would exceed the money the NHS received from April 2015. The shortfall represents 2 per cent of the NHS’s £100bn budget in England for 2015.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The NHS is on track to make £20bn savings this parliament and we are confident that it will continue to make the savings necessary to meet rising demand.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is currently involved in talks on how to plug the funding gap.
The NHS has been ring-fenced to protect it from government cuts to reduce the UK deficit, however it has experienced a prolonged budget freeze with spending only rising at the rate of inflation.
NHS services are under strain due to factors including population growth and an ageing population. Higher NHS pension costs have added to the financial burden.
In 2015/16 about £2bn from the NHS budget will be put into the Better Care Fund which is intended to help the NHS and local councils provide more integrated health and social care. This will further increase the financial pressure on hospitals as funds are diverted away.
Chris Ham, chief executive of healthcare charity the King’s Fund, said: “There needs to be a longer-term resolution of the funding issues facing the NHS because, after four years of no growth in the budget, it’s hard to see where the savings will come from.
“The impact is already being felt on patient care. We need an honest discussion [about] how much more money [is needed and] where will it come from to ensure the sustainability of the NHS that we all value so highly.”