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The health service must “think like a patient" and "act like taxpayers”, NHS England's chief executive has said, as he insisted private provision would remain "at the margin".
Setting out a new five-year plan for the NHS, Simon Stevens said £22bn of savings could be achieved through reforms to service delivery, but called for an above-inflation annual funding increase of 1.5% to plug the rest of a £30bn funding gap.
“We think we can do it," he told the Today programme.
"We know it can be done, there are parts of the country that are doing it. And if we do that then the NHS can deal with at least two-thirds of what would otherwise have been the funding gap over the course of the next five years.
"What remains is, we think, something that is perfectly feasible as the economy improves for the next government to address. It’s lower rates of increase than the NHS has needed at points in the past.
"We certainly do not believe that there’s anything about the next five years that should call into question the sustainability of a tax-funded, comprehensive health service which the people of this country want."
Mr Stevens also called on the next government "not to introduce any further top-down administrative reorganisations" of the NHS, and gave a "confident prediction" that the "vast majority of NHS-funded care" would continue to be delivered in the public sector.
"Most health services are delivered in this country by the National Health Service and that is bound to continue to be the case, and rightly so, under any foreseeable future," he said.
"But I think the test that we should be applying are that we think like a patient and we act like taxpayers.
"And when you apply those two tests, sometimes there will be occasions where, if you want to get a faster hip replacement or an eye operation, patients get a choice as to where they go and get that, that’s entirely right. But this is at the margin of what the health service does."
The health service boss also rejected claims that his own time as president of the US health firm UnitedHealth Group made him an advocate for greater private sector involvement in the NHS.
Today's report also sets out proposals aimed at reducing obesity via workplace incentives, rewarding employees who lose weight with cash or gift vouchers.
The Health Secretary has welcomed the report’s focus on preventative measures.
"Things like obesity, we’ve got to stop saying it’s everyone else’s problem, it’s the NHS’s problem," Jeremy Hunt told Sky News.
"People have to start taking responsibility for their own healthcare. We need to change the model of care so that we’re not just depending on hospitals.”
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