Simon Stevens is ‘insisting on real rigour in the process’ of approving better care fund plans, care services minister Norman Lamb has said.

Mr Lamb’s comments - made at the Commissioning Show in London today - follow a tightening of the assurance process for the 2015-16 pooled budget initiative in recent months, and following the arrival of Mr Stevens as NHS England chief executive in April.

The minister – who has been a champion of the fund – said he recognised “the system is under a lot of pressure and [there is] concern about whether new ways of working will actually deliver those acute admission [reductions]”.

Mr Lamb said: “This is why we asked for those plans a year earlier so they can be checked. It’s a difficult process but necessary.”

There has been concern that significant extra money will be spent on community health and social care, but hospital activity will not reduce, leaving the NHS struggling.

He said Mr Stevens had strengthened the process of approval, which will involve plans being checked by NHS England before going “to the Department [of Health] for sign off”.

He said: “Simon Stevens is insisting on real rigour in the process… He wants to make sure the system is ready.”