Health secretary Frank Dobson will announce today how the NHS is going to spend chancellor Gordon Brown's unprecedented £21bn give-away.

Managers' leaders could hardly contain their delight as Mr Brown finally announced the figure minutes from the end of his 30-minute speech to the Commons on Tuesday.

NHS Confederation chief executive Stephen Thornton said: 'This is way beyond our wildest dreams. The prime minister set out his vision at our conference a week ago. Now it is time for us to deliver.'

Institute of Health Services Management director Karen Caines said: 'While no one should be dazzled by the sheer size of the NHS budget - and the presentational impact of a single figure to cover three years' expenditure - the announcement represents a massive injection of new cash.

'This provides a secure foundation for the NHS restoration project.'

The chancellor's announcement means the NHS in England will receive an extra£17.83bn over three years.

An NHS modernisation fund of£5bn will be created for targeted improvements in services, including 'the biggest hospital building and renovation programme the NHS has seen'.

Mr Dobson described the announcement as 'the biggest cash injection in the history of the NHS' and said the three-year settlement would 'provide stability'.

Mr Brown said the government's comprehensive spending review had looked at 'what government does and what government spends' and that it had identified 'the modernisations and savings that are essential.'

He said each department had agreed a 'contract for the renewal of public services' that set out objectives, the resources needed to meet them and its targets.

He announced that each department would be expected to make efficiency savings to plough back into services.

And he announced curbs on the independent pay review bodies that set the pay of health and other public sector workers.

In future, they must take account of 'affordability', the government's inflation figure and the need to make efficiency savings.

This tempered the delight of Unison general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe. 'We cannot applaud the continuing grudge against public service workers nor the squeeze on their living standards.'

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Christine Hancock described the chancellor's announcement as 'potentially one of the most exciting opportunities to revolutionise quality in the history of the NHS.'

But she warned: 'If we do not tackle pay properly, this fantastic opportunity will be wasted.'

Mr Thornton added: 'It stops the government setting an inflation figure at the start of the year and then breaking it with the public pay award.'