Plans by a second police force to privatise police surgeon services have come under fire from the British Medical Association after claims that standards have slipped since the first contract was let.

West Yorkshire Police has agreed to contract its police surgeon service to Healthcall a month after the same private company took over in the West Midlands. The BMA fears other forces may follow.

Some GPs who worked for the West Midlands force refused contracts with Healthcall and are still in negotiations with the out-of-hours service. They say standards have deteriorated in the first few weeks of the contract.

Although West Midlands Police has signed an agreement with neighbouring Warwickshire Police for 'back-up support', a spokesperson insisted that the move formalised existing arrangements and was not linked to criticism of Healthcall.

He denied suggestions that service quality had dropped or that there were problems obtaining medical cover under the contract, which is supposed to save 'hundreds of thousands of pounds'.

A Healthcall spokeswoman described the issue as 'a bit sensitive' and said she could not comment while negotiations were ongoing. She said West Midlands Police had made no criticism of the service.

The BMA condemned the West Yorkshire decision as 'yet another piecemeal development in forensic medical services' deviating from the national police surgeons' contract negotiated last year.