Jeremy Hunt has ruled out seeking emergency cash from the Treasury to meet NHS funding needs - insisting the health service is making "good progress" finding sufficient additional efficiencies.
The Health Secretary accepted that around another £2 billion is required to absorb pressures on the NHS budget in England, but rejected claims it is a "black hole".
Doctors' leaders have warned there are no ways to make significant further efficiencies without affecting services amid reports of Liberal Democrat pressure for funding to be boosted.
Asked if he would request a bailout from Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today: " No, and I think it is wrong to describe it as a black hole.
"Every year, because of an ageing population, we have additional demand for services and we have to make efficiency savings.
"Over this Parliament, we have found about £20 billion of efficiency savings which we are investing in more doctors and nurses on the front line.
"And every year we have a challenge in the NHS to find those efficiency savings.
"The number you were talking about is the number that, broadly speaking, we need to find for next year and we are making good progress in finding it.
"We have had a very difficult few years as a country but every family up and down the country has learned to live within its budget, and we too must live within our budget in the NHS. We are doing that and I'm sure we will continue to do that."