The amount of money spent by the National Health Service fell for only the second time in more than two decades last year, sparking accusations that David Cameron has broken a key election pledge to increase NHS spending.
The Department of Health claimed over £1.5 billion had been saved on “bureaucracy and IT” while the amount of money going into “frontline” services had increased by £3.4 billion.
Overall it said the amount of money spent by the NHS had fallen by £1.6 billion which, ministers said, would be available to be spent next year.
But it later emerged that the Treasury is to claw back over £1 billion of the under spend – which will not be available as additional resources to the NHS next year.
Labour said this proved the Government had broken its promise not to cut NHS spending – leading to unnecessary cuts to staff and the rationing of treatment.
“Today we have it in black and white - official confirmation from the Government that David Cameron has broken his central Election promise,” said Andy Burnham the Shadow Health Secretary.
“When he told us three letters - NHS - would be his priority, it was about cynical, self-serving re-branding of the Tory Party and nothing much else.
“Almost four thousand nursing jobs are being axed, leaving waiting lists getting longer and the return of patients on trolleys in corridors. We are seeing crude, random rationing across the system with 125 treatments being stopped or restricted.
“With every day that passes and every promise he breaks, David Cameron looks more and more like a one-term Prime Minister - a Prime Minister who has betrayed the NHS.“
But the Health Minister Simon Burns said the figures simply showed the NHS was in “robust financial health”,
“This Government has met its promise to provide a real terms increase in the health budget,” he said.
“The amount spent on frontline services in 2011 to 2012 increased by £3.4 billion in cash terms or 3.5 per cent compared to the previous year. While spending has increased on patients, we have reduced inefficient spending, saving over £1.5 billion on bureaucracy and IT.
“This money has not been lost but is being carried forward for next year. Our increases in frontline spending are already showing results - waiting times have been kept low, there are more doctors, the NHS has performed more diagnostic tests and planned operations, and infections have been reduced even further.”