Doctors’ leaders have said they were “not convinced” by SNP plans to enshrine guaranteed waiting times in law.

The British Medical Association raised its concerns over legislation aimed at setting a 12-week limit for treatment.

The plans could create a “litigious” culture and undermine the nature of the NHS, the body warned.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the Patients’ Rights Bill will “send out a strong signal” that patients are at the heart of the NHS.

It also seeks to establish a patient advice and support service and bring in a legal right to complain.

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, welcomed the government’s intention to “articulate” patients’ rights.

But he added: “We believe that many of the rights and responsibilities listed in this bill are more suited to a patients’ charter-style approach and we are not convinced that it would be practical to translate these into legally binding rights.

“There is concern that the focus on legislative rights could lead to a confrontational or litigious approach which could undermine the mutual nature of the NHS and hinder open, communicative relationships between patients and the NHS staff who treat them.”

The legal time limit aims to ensure patients start treatment within 12 weeks of it being agreed. The support service would help people complain and provide information about health services.