The NHS is "too often" being used as a political football, health leaders have claimed.
A new report has criticised political handling of the health service.
Parties talk about rising demand for services, with no additional money available to spend, but are then very quick to criticise planned service changes or when patients' expectations are not met, the report states.
Politicians must have an "open discussion" with the public about the level of funding available for the NHS and the quality and scope of services that they can expect from that funding.
The report, compiled by the NHS Confederation, the Academy of Medical Royal Col leges, the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, states that the balance between rising demand for services and static funding "cannot be maintained".
"The NHS therefore finds itself trapped between patients who want more care, and want that care to be better than ever, and HM Treasury, nominally representing the taxpayer, which wants public spending constrained at a time of economic pressure," the report states.
"As such, the NHS can be a political football between those that want to emphasise the need to contain spending and those that want to place blame where patient expectations are not met, without identifying how those goals might be connected."