Government claims to have made real-terms increases in NHS spending for two years are misleading and should be withdrawn, a watchdog told Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
UK Statistics Authority chairman Andrew Dilnot issued the rebuke after upholding a complaint by Labour about statements by Prime Minister David Cameron and others.
In a letter to Mr Hunt, he said a detailed analysis of the best-available Treasury data suggested real-terms health spending was lower in 2011/12 than in 2009/10.
At best, he concluded, because of the small size of the changes and uncertainties surrounding them, it might be fair to say spending had "changed very little".
That was despite the Health Secretary telling the Commons in October that "real-terms spending on the NHS has increased across the country" and a Conservative website claim that the Government had increased the NHS budget in real terms for two straight years.
"In light of this, I should be grateful if the Department of Health could clarify the statements made," he said.