01/09/2012 11:33 BST | Updated 01/09/2012 11:50 BST

NHS Reforms: BMA Chief Dr Mark Porter Claims Patients 'At Risk'

The new leader of Britain's doctors has told The Guardian that the health of NHS patients is being put at risk because they are being denied access to operations and drugs.

Dr Mark Porter, the British Medical Association's recently elected chair of council, said the rationing of some treatments meant the NHS could no longer be considered a "comprehensive service".

The BMA chairman said that local restrictions on the NHS would become increasingly widespread as the financial squeeze on the health service intensified.

The BMA chairman said that financial squeezes on the NHS meant the service was becoming less and less comprehensive

"You see it happening in examples now, but it's when it becomes service-wide in a few years time, if the current policies continue, that the population will notice in the wider sense," he said.

"It's no longer a comprehensive service. We can see the effect of people to whom we have to say 'I'm sorry, this treatment is no longer available'."

Dr Porter also slammed the controversial practice of offering financial incentives to some GPs' surgeries if they sent fewer patients for tests and treatment in hospital.

"It's morally wrong and professionally wrong," he said. "Doctors' minds should be on what's best for the patient, not on whether the PCT (primary care trust) will sub them for certain types of financial behaviour."

His claims were supported by Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, who insisted that under the current government the "N" in the NHS was coming increasingly under attack.

Burnham said the public should "sit up and take notice" of what Dr Porter was saying and rally to the defence of the NHS.

"Doctors warned David Cameron that his reforms would lead to increased rationing of treatments, an accelerating postcode lottery and widespread privatisation of services.

"The Prime Minister arrogantly waved them away but, as Dr Porter identifies, these fears are fast becoming a reality."

However the Department of Health has hit back at the claims Porter made in the interview insisting that government reforms were designed to safeguard the NHS

They had already taken steps to ensure what Porter feared could not become reality.

"Last year we made it clear that it is unacceptable for the NHS to impose blanket bans for treatment on the basis of costs.

That is why we banned PCTs from putting caps on the number of people who could have certain operations," a spokesman said.

"The NHS is treating more people and we are increasing the NHS budget in real terms - investing an extra £12.5 billion in the NHS over the course of this parliament.

"But the NHS can and must be more efficient and we are already seeing results - the NHS made £5.8 billion in savings in 2011/12 while keeping waiting times low, performing more diagnostic tests and planned operations, and reducing infections even further.

"The NHS is showing that it can meet the financial challenge set."