The NHS faces "mission impossible" in meeting performance targets and budget savings , according to the head of the health service’s trade association.

Many trusts fear they “can’t deliver” on government targets, and there is an “unbridgeable gap” between funding and expectations, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers wrote in a blog post.

Next year, as many as 1.8 million people could fall outside the NHS' target to triage patients within four hours of arrival in A&E - 500,000 as many as this year - the trade association estimated.

Growth in frontline funding was lower than previous years and trusts would need an extra £2.5 billion to turn performance around within a year, according to NHS Providers' analysis, which is to be released in full tomorrow.

From last week: Patients suffering due to rationing of NHS services, new report from health think tank the King's Fund claims

Analysts at health think-tank The King’s Fund came to a similar conclusion last week, noting that the rate at which NHS funding traditionally grows year-on-year had also slowed "significantly" in the past seven years.

Combined with a demand to rein in "slipping" waiting time targets for accident and emergency and routine operations and a forecast rise in demand for services, Mr Hopson said: "Take all this together and it's mission impossible. The numbers don't add up."

The NHS faced huge pressure over the winter, with A&E waiting times of four hours and more reaching record levels, amid fears of a staffing crisis.

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Pic credit: NHS Providers/PA Wire

In a blog post on the organisation's website, Mr Hopson (pictured above) said: "NHS trust leaders want to meet NHS standards, achieve financial balance and improve their performance.

"But you get what you pay for. Trusts can only deliver if they get the appropriate funding and support. Without these, difficult choices are required.

"If we are to maximise the use of NHS resources, plan properly, treat staff fairly and be straight with the public.

"NHS leaders have to be realistic about what can be delivered next year.

"Trusts won't be able to recover the A&E and elective surgery targets across the whole year - the best we can hope for is turning the current performance decline into an improvement.

"Given that demand and cost increases will easily outstrip funding and efficiency increases, just reproducing this year's financial performance is a stretching target."

The full report detailing the NHS Providers analysis will be released tomorrow (Monday, March 20).

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