The British Medical Association has launched its general election “manifesto”, which says political parties must not adopt a “slash and burn” approach to NHS finances and services.

The body said the NHS provided better value for money than any comparable healthcare system in the world and ministers should continue to invest in it at a time when demand for services was increasing.

It would be a disastrous error to resort to measures such as cutting clinical staff

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: “Tough questions are being asked about public services.

“But even during a time of financial stringency, continued investment in the NHS is vital.

“A slash and burn response to the need for savings would be dangerous and short sighted, risking long term damage to the infrastructure of the health service.

“Now more than ever we should acknowledge the success of the NHS and recognise the support it gives people when times are hard.

“It would be a disastrous error to resort to measures such as cutting clinical staff at a time when demand for healthcare is increasing.”

The document, Standing up for Doctors - Standing up for Health, says money can be saved by cutting the use of private companies and expensive management consultants.

This includes reducing reliance on independent sector treatment centres and private finance initiatives.

The BMA wants to see the NHS restored to a “publicly provided service”.

Dr Meldrum said: “When the drivers are profits, it has to be asked whether patients’ interests are really being served, and value for money being achieved.

“Creating a market means high transactional costs and bureaucracy, with money that could be spent on patient care going to private companies and shareholders.”