Doctors' leaders are to consider charging NHS patients for medical care under a major review of health funding. The British Medical Association plans to spend at least 18 months considering how to pay for the the NHS.

BMA chair Dr Ian Bogle said: 'We cannot seriously go on like this.

Patients deserve a better service than they are getting. Doctors are working under enormous pressure and the workload is rising.'

He said there was a large and widening gap between the resources available for healthcare and patient need and demand, despite a 'substantial increase' in government funding.

His comments came the day after health secretary Alan Milburn rejected the idea of charging patients. Speaking at the first conference of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, Mr Milburn said: 'The NHS is both fairer and more efficient than the privatised alternative.'

NHS Confederation chief executive Stephen Thornton said the solution was 'not to be found from private revenue'.