The plan for £22bn efficiency savings outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward View are ‘virtually impossible’ to achieve, a former health minister has said.

Norman Lamb, who was the Liberal Democrat care minister when the forward view was published last year, said the document’s financial assumptions were “completely heroic”, and “the assumption which involved the biggest efficiency savings brought the gap down to £8bn”.

Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb criticised the ‘historic injustice’ in the difference between health and social care funding

Mr Lamb said he thought NHS England chief Simon Stevens was aware that such savings are “virtually impossible”

The forward view “didn’t say much about Simon Steven’s views about the likelihood of achieving that. I think he would know that it’s virtually impossible… and everyone on the ground knows just how impossible it is,” he told delegates at the Commissioning Show in London this morning.

The Liberal Democrats backed the forward view ahead of the general election, including the commitment to an additional £8bn funding for the NHS by 2020

He also said he did not think the new Conservative government’s health pledges “stack up” because “the sums don’t add up”. He criticised the Conservatives for not indicating where the funding will come from its manifesto commitment to a minimum £8bn real terms increase by 2021.

Mr Lamb also criticised the “historic injustice” in the difference between health and social care funding, and called for pooled budgets in every locality by 2018, which should also be given powers to raise their own money.

Referring to Greater Manchester’s devolved powers for health and social care, Mr Lamb said “we need to be devolving responsibilities in the Manchester mode”, which are currently “so dominated by Whitehall”.