The new NHS funding deal had been a “moment of choice for the government and the country”, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt has told HSJ.

In an interview after the deal was agreed Mr Hunt said there had been “very very difficult” conversations with the Treasury but the deal would give hope to the NHS staff and public.

The funding settlement, which increases the NHS England budget by an average of 3.4 per cent each year, is smaller than some had hoped, but Mr Hunt said: “The NHS can’t operate in a vacuum. The national finances are eye wateringly tight.”

He said he wouldn’t “pretend this is going to make all our money worries totally disappear” but it “does give us a chance of a sustainable future”.

Asked how difficult the negotiations had been with the chancellor, Mr Hunt said: “We had to have very very difficult discussions but in the end we have come out with more than we could possibly have hoped for.

“The chancellor completely understands the pressures the NHS is under and the demographic challenge but he also has the unenviable task of trying to manage the national finances.”

Mr Hunt said the government was in a tough position but was absolutely committed to the NHS.

“I want to give hope to NHS staff that the NHS has a fantastic future and the government is putting its money where our mouth is. I also want to give hope to the public that we are committed to the NHS…we have not resigned ourselves to decline. We want to be the best in the world on mental health, safety, genomics and a whole host of other vital areas,” he said.

Asked how the NHS would be able to be ambitious and transform its services within the settlement Mr Hunt said new technologies and developments in artificial intelligence could help the NHS deliver productivities and efficiencies on a scale it has never had in the past.