The direct answer to that question is that no-one really knows – but it is unlikely to be very soon.
The Guardian reported on Friday that Theresa May told NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and his NHS Improvement counterpart Jim Mackey the service would not be receiving increased funding in the short term.
Not all connected with the meeting remember the issue of increased funding being the central topic of the discussions. It is very likely that Mr Stevens and Mr Mackey, while not disguising the service’s financial problems, were not expecting Mrs May to come to their rescue and – indeed – did not ask her to do so.
They both know that the new PM and Chancellor need time to be helped to fully understand the difficulties facing the NHS and, to be blunt, for them to be in post long enough to share part ownership of tackling them (and the blame should those efforts fail).
For six years both Mrs May and Mr Hammond have sat in cabinet and watched as the NHS received special treatment – often at the expense of the departments they were running. Little wonder that they are keen for country’s health services to show the same enthusiasm for improving efficiency as they had to demonstrate.
And no surprise that Mr Stevens and Mr Mackey keep repeating the message that the service has to prove its takes cost effectiveness seriously.
There is a real concern among some in the national NHS leadership that well intentioned lobby groups are making the same mistake as the British Medical Association did over the junior doctors’ contract; that a crescendo of protest will eventually force the government to fold. They fear the constant rattling of the tin in the government’s face will, in fact, encourage them to take an even more entrenched position.
The same Guardian report also quotes “senior Whitehall sources” as saying November’s autumn statement will contain “no new money for the NHS.” That will probably turn out to be the case – but no firm decisions have been made – and positive economic news just might cause the government to think again.
But assuming that does not happen, what is the most likely scenario for the service’s funding?
The government’s attention is focussed very firmly on Brexit and will stay that way for some time. NHS leaders will therefore have to play a long(ish) game in their arguments.
Greatest progress is being made on social care – an area the NHS England chief has said should receive any extra funding before the NHS.
Before Brexit the previous leadership of the Department of Communities and Local Government had shown little enthusiasm to grasp the nettle, despite encouragement from health secretary Jeremy Hunt among others.
Since the arrival of Sajid Javed as DCLG secretary the mood music has changed and policy makers are actively beginning to address the issue.
One possibility being explored is that funding allocated for the Better Care Fund in future years may be brought forward and that councils are given greater flexibility in the use of council tax precept introduced to help fund adult social care.
Next on the agenda, sometime in 2017, would be injection of capital funding to help deliver the new care models and service changes being collected within the sustainability and transformation plans. Capital is in desperately short supply and messages from NHSI have warned the situation could get even tighter should the NHS miss its financial targets and the Treasury impose further spending restrictions.
The binds might be loosened as part of the new chancellor’s desire to realise “targeted, high-value investment in our economic infrastructure.” Mr Stevens has noted the relatively low cost of government borrowing and commented: “when you’ve got lemons, make lemonade.”
Thirdly, the 2017 Autumn Statement will take place just a few weeks before the NHS embarks on its 70th birthday year. It is here service leaders are likely to target the efforts for an increase in revenue funding for 2018/19 onwards.
All of this, of course, is dependent on the nation performing to plan economically and the government’s hopefully improving view of the service as wise spenders of public funds.