NHS officials deny they were pressured to downgrade estimates of how extra much cash health service needed

New book claims NHS would need £15-£16bn more funding by 2020

NHS officials have denied reports that Downing Street pressured the health service’s chief executive to downgrade an estimate of how much extra cash the NHS would need before the last election.

Former Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister David Laws claims in his new book that Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, had originally estimated the NHS would need £15-16bn more funding by 2020.

According to Mr Laws’ account, Mr Stevens was told that David Cameron and George Osborne would not sign up to the figure and was instructed “get it down to a more deliverable sum”.

In October 2014, Mr Stevens’ published an official report presenting options for the future funding of the NHS, ranging from £8bn to £21bn real terms funding increases. The Government then pledged an £8bn increase – portraying the sum as the NHS’s own reckoning of its needs.

The figure was based on the assumption that the health service could make £22bn in efficiency savings up to 2020 – a task many senior figures in the health service believe will be impossible amid ever-rising demand from an ageing population.

Responding to the claims, made in the Mail on Sunday, a spokesperson for NHS England said Mr Laws was “not part” of discussions between the NHS and the Government and denied Mr Stevens had been “leant on”.

However, the spokesperson said it was now “obvious and inescapable” that the NHS would need fresh funding increases in the near future.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: "The NHS Five Year Forward View in October 2014 clearly and independently said that the NHS would need in the range of £8-21bn real terms annual growth by 2020, depending on levels of efficiency, capital investment and transformational funding. We stand by this analysis and were not 'leant on'.

"The NHS is going hammer and tongs to meet growing demand, offer new treatments, and remove remaining inefficiencies. If in the years and decades ahead we want a well-functioning NHS, it's obvious and inescapable that the nation will have to use economic growth to fund health care more generously. That's an argument we will forcibly make.”