The British Medical Association plans to widen its campaign against NHS privatisation to patients after focusing on doctors since it began last year.

But the Department of Health has questioned the timing of the extension of the campaign, which is called Look After Our NHS.

A DH spokesman said independent and third sector organisations can and have decreased waiting lists for operations by helping to add capacity and increase patient choice.

The BMA said the current economic climate meant it was even more important not to “waste” money on private firms.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: “As the public purse strings tighten, it is crucial that public money is no longer wasted on expensive commercial experiments.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Independent and third sector organisations were used successfully to get down waiting lists for operations and can make a contribution to this by helping to add capacity and increase patient choice.”