Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Saturday, 27 March 2010

NHS presents spending cuts plan to government

The government says it is committed to protecting frontline services

Proposals for significant reductions in NHS spending have been made to the government by England's 10 strategic health authorities (SHA).

The plans follow an announcement last year by the chief executive of the NHS that it must save up to £20bn by 2014.

One of the biggest SHAs, NHS Yorkshire and Humber, has confirmed to the BBC it submitted a "variety of scenarios" in a bid to save money.

The government said it "was committed to protecting the NHS front line".

In Wednesday's Budget, the NHS was told to make savings of £4.35bn within two years.

They form the first part of the £20bn efficiency drive announced by NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson last June.

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said the NHS was facing a period of austerity unmatched in its most recent history.

'Streamlined working'

With the general election approaching, Labour has pledged to protect front-line health services, committing to a funding increase next year and no reduction in real terms for the following two years.

The NHS budget in England will be £105bn for 2010-11
Future years' budgets have yet to be set, but at best the NHS can only hope for a very small rise
The £4.35bn announced on Budget Day is just the first part of this efficiency drive

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have promised real term increases.

A spokesperson for NHS Yorkshire and Humber said the authority had been asked to find ways to contribute to the nationwide bid to make savings.

It was "looking at introducing new ways of streamlined working", it said in a statement.

The Daily Telegraph, which claims to have seen the proposals of a number of the SHAs, says that, in some areas, one in 10 staff could be sacked and that bed closures are being considered.

But, speaking on Thursday, Chancellor Alistair Darling said the NHS could be more efficient and that front-line services need not be threatened.

"All the efficiencies in the front line will be reinvested in the NHS," the Department of Health said in a statement on Saturday.

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