Andrew Lansley must increase NHS productivity and refocus the service on prevention in order to maintain the quality of services and avoid cuts, the King’s Fund has said.

Commenting on Mr Lansley’s appointment as health secretary, King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said: “The new secretary of state must set the NHS on a new course to transform itself from a service that diagnoses and treats sickness to one that predicts and prevents it.

“The confirmation that the health budget will increase in real terms over the course of the parliament is good news for the NHS, although this is unlikely to be enough to keep pace with demand for services and cost pressures. Closing the £21bn productivity gap we estimate the NHS is facing must be its top priority if it is to maintain quality and avoid cutting services.

“We hope the focus on improving public health promised in the manifestos will be at the heart of the new government’s agenda. Whether or not the coalition government is able to tackle the economic and social determinants of poor health and reduce health inequalities will be a test of whether it can work effectively across departmental boundaries - something that eluded its predecessors.

“The momentum established on social care reform must not be lost. This should be an urgent priority for the first session of the new parliament, with clear proposals for reform set out within a year. Politicians from all the parties talked before the election about the need for consensus on the way forward - whether or not this is achieved will be a key test of whether coalition government delivers a more constructive approach to politics.”