Senior GPs have claimed primary care trusts are feeling pressured to make budget cuts rather than find efficiency savings.

Speaking at a roundtable event at the Royal College of GPs last week, health minister Mike O’Brien said the aim of the £15bn-£20bn savings target was to “get money we’re not spending well and reinvest”.

The Treasury [is] not trying to get its sticky mitts on it. It knows we are going to keep it within the NHS budget

He said: “What [NHS chief executive] David Nicholson has said very clearly is that we need to find £15bn-£20bn from the current NHS budget to reinvest in the NHS budget. Now that’s the key message.”

He said: “The Treasury [is] not trying to get its sticky mitts on it. It knows we are going to keep it within the NHS budget. That £15bn-£20bn [is] our reinvestment money to fund innovation and improvements in quality.”

But British Medical Association GPs committee chair Laurence Buckman said: “You’ve got to shout that message. If you listen to ordinary PCT folk - presumably because that’s what strategic health authorities are saying to them - they are not hearing that.”

Dr Buckman said PCTs expected to have their budgets top sliced by SHAs and their finance directors were “nervous”.

RCGP chair Steve Field suggested the DH needed to alter its message.

Professor Field said the first message should be that “quality will save you money”.