At least 84 per cent of NHS financial directors are ill-prepared for the cost cutting programme the government has embarked on, a study has claimed.

Research conducted by KPMG and Dr Foster Intelligence found that 59 per cent of those interviewed thought their budgets would rise in 2012, a belief the study describes as “very optimistic”.

The study also found that 65 per cent of finance directors expected their trust’s spending to fall within the limits of this year’s budget.

Andrew Hine, healthcare advisory partner at KPMG, warned optimism was unwise, adding that improving efficiency would be the main drive for the foreseeable future.

He said: “Many areas will do well to see any cash increases. The agenda now is about getting more delivery from the same money.”

The NHS is looking to make savings of between £15bn and £20bn over the next three years.