Nigel Farage has come under fire after calling for corporations to be allowed to "run the National Health Service and streamline it".
The Ukip leader told the Telegraph that the NHS should also be opened up to public spending cuts, saying: “I genuinely do think, when you... occasionally hear of a big businessman that says he’d like to run the National Health Service and streamline it, and get better value for money, I think that’s the approach we’ve got to take.”
"If you're going to cut government spending," he made clear as he hosted a phone-in with the newspaper's readers. "You have to decide where those cuts are going to come."
Farage previously told the Telegraph that it would be "ridiculous" to protect the NHS from spending cuts.
Tory MEP Sajjad Karim told the Huffington Post UK: "Sadly Nigel Farage will say anything to anyone on anything. They have no coherent policy and much of it is opportunistic and decided upon which way the wind is blowing. Whether it is on the NHS or attending votes in the European Parliament, it is clear they cannot be trusted."
Meanwhile, the SLATUKIP anti-Ukip group, which highlighted Farage's controversial comments, said: "We all know that ‘streamlining’ means cuts, and for a leader of a political party to use such rhetoric, while also flirting with the idea of marrying big business and public service, is quite shocking in its brazenness."
However, Ukip's health spokeswoman, Louise Bours MEP, told HuffPost UK that it was "misleading" to suggest Farage wanted to privatise the NHS.
"We have always said we need to get rid of some of the vast amount of management, so more money can be spent on frontline services, that is what streamlining means," she said. “Over 50% of NHS employees are not clinically trained.
"I don't think anyone would disagree with us that money should be diverted from excess management to improve frontline services. At no point in this does Nigel say he wants the NHS privatised, and to suggest he does is misleading.
"His point is that business leaders know how to cut down on top-heavy management. As my conference speech made clear, we want clinical decisions and strategy to be decided by clinicians, not pen-pushing management."
Ukip has previously dismissed suggestions that it wants privatisation and "even deeper cuts" to the NHS as "Labour lies". However, deputy leader Paul Nuttall once wrote that the "very existence of the NHS stifles competition".
Arguing that it was "not fit for purpose in the 21st century", Nuttall went on to congratulate the coalition for "bringing a whiff of privatisation into the beleaguered National Health Service".
Meanwhile, former Ukip economics spokesman Godfrey Bloom has suggested charging people to visit their GP. Speaking to the Guardian, he insisted: "It's not free! We all have to pay for it."
This comes after Ukip was forced to defend a controversial former Christian party leader, who once warned of the "Gaystapo", joining their party.
Alan Craig previously compared gay marriage to the "invasion of Poland", warning that it could be a "catalyst for war and a cultural fight-back".
A Ukip spokesman admitted that Craig had used more "ripened" language about same-sex marriage, telling the Huffington Post UK: "We're not prejudiced against traditional, old-school Christians just as we're not against homosexual people. I'm very wary of joining in a witch-hunt against somebody who holds those views, that the vast majority of the world would also hold."