NHS 'running on fumes', claims doctors' leader
The health service is at "breaking point" due to an "explicit political choice" from the Government, the head of the British Medical Association has claimed.
Dr Mark Porter accused ministers of "picking the pocket" of NHS staff by holding down wages since 2010.
A Department of Health spokesman rejected Dr Porter's claims and accused him of "doing a disservice" to workers.
Speaking on the first day of the BMA's annual conference yesterday, Dr Porter said: "We have a government trying to keep the health service running on nothing but fumes.
"A health service at breaking point, run by ministers who wilfully ignore the pleas of the profession and the impact on patients.
"It doesn't have to be this way. It is the result of an explicit political choice."
His comments came as the BMA published a new poll showing four out of five (82%) voters are worried about the future of the health service.
Some 62% of respondents said they expect the NHS to get worse in the coming years, although more people were happy with the current service (43%) than were dissatisfied (33%).
At this week's conference BMA members will vote on plans for 'black alerts' at GP surgeries, which will mean family doctors can turn patients away if they are too busy to offer proper treatment.
The number of patients registering with GP services has risen by two million over the past four years, according to figures published yesterday by NHS Digital.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged to recruit an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020 to meet the rise in demand.