Downing Street “leant on” the chief executive of the NHS to reduce the amount of money he said was needed by the health service, a former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister David Laws has claimed.
Mr Laws said Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, had told Downing Street that the NHS needed to find £30 billion, and that £15 billion could be found through efficiency savings.
But Mr Stevens was then told there was “no way” David Cameron and George Osborne would sign up to providing the other £15 billion, Mr Laws said.
David Laws, former Lib Dem cabinet minister Photo: REX
“The problem seems to be that when he then took that figure to the Conservatives in Number 10, they said ‘you must be kidding, there is no way the Chancellor and the Prime Minister will sign up to that figure, you better get that figure down if you want it to be taken seriously,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“He did that, reduced therefore the demand to £8 billion,” said Mr Laws, who said more had been needed.
“I’m not criticising Simon. I think he was leant on,” said the former minister, who laid out the revelations in his memoirs.
A spokeswoman for NHS England denied that Mr Stevens had been “leant on”.
She said a 5-year-plan for the NHS produced by the chief executive in 2014 “clearly and independently said that the NHS would need in the range of £8-21bn real terms annual growth by 2020, depending on levels of efficiency, capital investment and transformational funding.”
“We stand by this analysis and were not ‘leant on’. David Laws was not part of these discussions, and has no first-hand knowledge of them,” she added.