NHS hospitals around the country are being forced to postpone patients' routine operations because of financial problems, a situation which the British Medical Association (BMA) has labelled "nonsensical".
BMA chairman James Johnson said that postponements were occurring in Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) around the country and warned that the worst is yet to come.
"It's an absolutely nonsensical situation," he claimed. "Doctors and nurses are available to treat patients, but they can't get on with it because PCTs are under pressure to balance the books."
Mr Johnson claimed that the market system, whereby care is bought and sold, was supposed to increase efficiency, but seemed to be making the situation worse.
"It's clearly not in patients' interests that there are incentives for PCTs to delay operations," he said.
"It makes no sense at all financially because the hospital still has to pay its staff, but doesn't get the money from the PCT, so all that happens is that debts are passed from one part of the NHS to another."
Dr Mark Porter, deputy chairman of the BMA consultants committee, added that the government was undermining years of cooperation between doctors, nurses and managers to improve patient care and said that both patients and consultants were "angry" as a result.
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