• New funding to be “earmarked” for group of cancers, says Stevens
  • NHS England boss also says NHS must invest resource on stop smoking services
  • NHS Improvement boss says ministers need to “open the taps” on capital funding

Funding from the NHS’s new settlement will be “earmarked” for cancer programmes including prostate, lung and colorectal cancer, the NHS England chief executive told MPs today.

Simon Stevens also said the NHS would need to target resource on smoking cessation services beyond what councils provide. This followed a leading policy expert setting out a warning about the damage done to health outcomes by spending cuts to these services.

Asked if any of the new £20.5bn funding settlement for the NHS announced by the prime minister last month would be ring-fenced for transformation to avoid it being used solely to plug existing gaps, Mr Stevens said this would be set out in a long-term plan published in November.

But he told the health and social care committee that “we are likely to want to have some earmarked resource for the particular improvements that we set out over the five and ten year goal”.

While the NHS had made great strides on improving cancer outcomes there was a “diagnostic bottleneck [for cancer], capacity constraints and we have got to change a lot of our screening programmes”, he said.

“We are going to need to dedicate some specific money to do that, probably targeted [on] the redesign of the prostate pathway, lung cancer and colorectal, there are other cancers that need attention as well,” he added.

His comments follow HSJ exclusively revealing last month that early diagnosis of cancer was set for major investment as part of the new funding settlement, and the cancer budget could be doubled.

Alongside other headline goals already set out by the government like young people’s mental health services and addressing health inequalities, he also said the NHS would need to earmark resource for quit smoking services.

“It’s pretty clear we are going to have push harder on smoking, and smoking cessation is part of that. That can’t all be done through local authority commissioned services.

“I think we are going to have to look at whether the NHS can imbed smoking cessation in more of the routine contacts we have with vulnerable groups who are smoking.”

Health Foundation director of research and economics Anita Charlesworth had told MPs earlier on in the session that spending on stop smoking services and tobacco control through local authority public health grants fell by a third in real terms since 2014-15.

The session also heard from a series of health sector leaders and think-tank chiefs who reiterated warnings that funding transformation inside a below four per cent real terms annual increase would be extremely challenging.

Meanwhile NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton warned the government would need to “open the taps” on capital funding if the NHS was to address existing maintenance backlogs and deliver transformation.

Mr Stevens cited primary care estate as a priority for capital funding. He said many GP practice premises were no longer fit for purpose.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson warned that bringing the NHS back into compliance with existing performance and financial measures would most likely require all of the £6bn of the additional funding in 2019-20, raising questions about how to fund transformation.