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Straight into lion's den for new Health Secretary

Andrew Burnham will try to play down claims of a predicted £15 billion cash shortfall facing the NHS in the coming years as he makes his first speech as Secretary of State for Health.

The newly-appointed Health Secretary will address members of the NHS Confederation in the same week the organisation warned the service faced a shortfall of billions over the next 10 years.

Mr Burnham was promoted to the post in last week's Cabinet reshuffle, after heading the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as Culture Secretary.

Responding to the funding claims, the minister said predictions of looming closures and job cuts were "completely premature".

He is expected to touch on themes such as obesity when he addresses the confederation in Liverpool.

NHS Confederation chief executive, Steve Barnett, said: "In the next 12 months, the new Health Secretary will face some very serious challenges as the NHS prepares for a major squeeze in its funding."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

NHS Confederation

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"As the saying goes, a new broom sweeps clean. I do hope that this will result in cleanliness for the NHS benefits for patients and not continuing wastage of resources both financial and otherwise" - V Henry, London