The NHS faces “significant cuts to services” unless extra cash is ploughed in by the next government, according to a poll of finance chiefs by a health charity.
The King’s Fund said the next government will need to find more funds for the health service or accept the cuts.
The warning comes after its latest report on NHS finances painted a bleak picture for the future.
A poll of 74 NHS trust finance directors and 47 clinical commissioning group finance leads found that only two in five hospital financial bosses are confident their organisation will achieve financial balance in 2014-15. Just 16 per cent believe this will be achieved in 2015-16.
Meanwhile, only one in three finance leads for CCGs are sure they will balance the books in 2015-16, according to the health care charity’s latest report.
The report warns of a “looming” financial crisis in the NHS. It claims that lack of confidence about future finances is partly down to concerns about the Better Care Fund - which will draw £1.9bn of funds from the NHS to support joined up working between health and social care services from April 2015.
Richard Murray, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: “The NHS has coped well during the winter and avoided the accident & emergency crisis that was so widely predicted.
“However, as the implications for hospitals of implementing the Better Care Fund sink in, there is a growing recognition that the NHS will face a financial crisis in 2015/16, if not before.
“It is now certain that the next government will need to find more funding for the NHS or accept significant cuts to services.”
Labour said that health service finances have “deteriorated on the government’s watch” but the Department of Health said it is taking action to address deficits.
Labour’s shadow minister for care and older people Liz Kendall said: “Today’s warning from The King’s Fund of a looming ‘financial crunch’ confirms Labour’s warnings that the NHS’s finances have deteriorated badly on this government’s watch.
“NHS trust deficits are growing and there are now twice as many foundation trusts in the red compared to this time last year.
“When the NHS faces the biggest financial challenge of its life, David Cameron should have been laser-focused on reforming frontline services to deliver better care and better value for money. Instead he forced through a massive backroom reorganisation that’s been a damaging distraction, wasted billions of pounds and weakened the grip on NHS finances too.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “As this report acknowledges, the NHS is performing well and meeting demand, despite increasing pressures on services.
“We recognise the scale of the financial challenge that trusts are facing and are taking action to address deficits, including putting recovery plans in place.”