By MELISSA BLOCKMERE, AFP/Getty Images Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has admitted his department has not yet seen the full picture of the £2bn savings promised by the government in its “health service strategy”.
A series of new measures, including a planned $1bn reduction in annual GP fees, have also been announced.
The Department of Health said the changes would see a drop in the number of hospitals across the UK from over 200 to fewer than 100.
A spokeswoman said: “As we are building up our NHS, we are making significant investments across our health system to deliver better care for patients, keep patients safe and improve patient outcomes.”
But the spokeswoman also admitted there were areas of “significant overlap” between the NHS and the health sector, with the Department of the Health Secretary admitting “there are areas where we need to work more closely with the health care sector”.
Read more”We are building on this by making sure we have a wider range of health services, we will continue to build on this across the NHS, and we are putting forward the most ambitious programme to date,” she said.
In a separate interview, Hunt said that the NHS is “not in a place right now” to manage its own finances.
The health secretary said he is still looking at ways of “saying no” to the private sector in the NHS.
We have a long way to go but we are working hard on it.””
We’re not there yet.
We have a long way to go but we are working hard on it.”
The NHS’s overall budget is forecast to be cut by about 4% this year, down from the 6.4% cut in 2019-20, but a further 4.4%, or about £1.8bn, will be saved in 2020-21.
In its strategy, the government says the NHS needs to improve patient care and deliver better outcomes to protect its future financial viability.
But the department has previously admitted that its aim is not to reduce the number or quality of hospitals, but to provide better services to patients.
It also promised to increase the number and quality of GPs and reduce waiting times for care.
In March, the Department for Health and Social Care said that it was working to “ensure all NHS services are delivered on time, efficiently and effectively”.
It said the department would continue to invest in the care of vulnerable patients.
“The NHS is investing to ensure that patients and families receive the best possible care, which means more patients, fewer waiting times and more efficient delivery of services,” it said.
The Health and Care Information Centre, which represents GPs, said the NHS’s current health strategy “has been underfunded for many years and needs to be rebuilt”.
“The Government must commit to building a health service that works for patients and the NHS,” said a spokeswoman.
Read moreShe said: “If we do not act now, we risk losing patients and costing the NHS millions of pounds in its ongoing efforts to deliver a world-class health service.”
Health Minister Hunt has promised to put the NHS on a “targeted track” for efficiency, while he said the government was “on track” to achieve savings of at least 1.6% of the NHS budget.
But he also said the health service would need to “rebuild” its existing health infrastructure in order to deliver “faster and more effective delivery of NHS services”.
He also said it would be a “terrible” mistake to “simply stop doing what we’ve been doing”.