Head of key NHS group says health service is now on a 'slow, gradual decline'
The chief executive of NHS Providers has said the health service needs billions more in funding to avoid a "slow gradual decline".
Chris Hopson spoke out as NHS trusts in England warned they faced "mission impossible" to meet performance targets over the next year.
The remarks this morning are a direct rebuke to ministers, including Theresa May, who have insisted the service is getting the funding asked for by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.
NHS Providers latest report says hospitals are set for a funding increase of 2.6% in 2017/18, but that will not be enough to cope with a 5.2% increase in demand for treatment.
The service is already struggling with increased demand, with recent figures showing January was the worst month on record for waiting times in England's accident and emergency departments.
Mr Hopson called for an extra £3.5bn of funding next year on top of what has already been promised, warning that without the extra cash the NHS would continue to miss its targets.
"The trusts we represent are very clear. They want to realise those standards but you can only do it you pay for it and at the moment the problem is we're at the longest and deepest financial squeeze in NHS history," he told BBC One's Sunday Politics.
"As we've said, funding is only going up by 1% a year. For every year just to stand still, cost and demand go up by more than 4%."
Mr Hopson added that hospitals looked certain to fall short of the Government's target of making £22bn of "efficiency savings" by the end of this Parliament.
"We're on course to realise £3bn this year, that's £250m more than last year, but I think all of us in the NHS knew that the £22bn was going to be a very, very stretching target and we are, somewhat inevitably, falling short," he said.
And he issued a stark warning about the long-term future of the health service, saying:
"We're currently quite a long way off the four hour A&E target, we're currently quite a long way off the 92% of waiting times [target] and we're also having to make up a £800, if you took all of those into account we estimate you would need an extra £3.5bn next year in order to deliver all of those targets and eliminate the provider deficit...
"This is the first time that the NHS has said before the year has even started that we can't deliver on those standards and we believe, as do most people who work in the NHS, that the NHS is on a gradual slow decline.
"This is a very important inflection point to mark. This is the first time before the financial year starts that we're saying we can't keep the targets we're being asked to deliver that are in the NHS constitution."