Senior medical figures have attacked the quality of care for patients coming out of hospital following an operation.

Speaking at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, NICE chair Sir Michael Rawlins and Royal College of GPs chair Clare Gerada all criticised provision of post-discharge pain relief in the community.

Responding to a question from the floor, Sir Michael said: “Post-operative pain relief is bloody terrible in this country. When someone in my family goes into hospital for surgery I have to sort out the analgesia [afterwards] myself, which I can do because I’m a doctor.”

Professor Keogh agreed, saying “it is badly dealt with” and added that the Department of Health was considering setting a quality standard for it.

Dr Gerada said: “It’s an area we [in primary care] deal with very, very badly. Since the Shipman inquiry, GPs are very reluctant to use heavy duty analgesia with their patients.”

She also commented on the RCGP’s letter to prime minister David Cameron on Monday, warning against the extension of competition in the NHS.

She said: “Of course competition can improve quality, we know that from practice accreditation. Doctors and nurses are competitive. But if you expose the NHS to the full force of EU competition law there is very little evidence [it] drives up quality. It’s very complex and variable.”

When session chair Phil Hammond suggested cervical smear tests at Tesco could soon be available, Dr Gerada agreed, “it will happen”.

Sir Bruce said foundation trusts already competed but added a mechanism was needed to make sure “they don’t try and do each other out of business”.

On the bill’s “pause”, he said: “I don’t think it should go on too long, it plays into the sense of confusion that exists.”