NHS members of trade union MSF are considering leaving the organisation amid fears of a 30 per cent cut in its health sector budget.

The appointment of national secretary Roger Spiller - who does not have an NHS background - to replace high-profile head of health Roger Kline, who left last month, has also sparked controversy.

The unease comes in the wake of MSF's vote to merge with engineering union AEEU, which will reduce the relative weight of MSF's health membership in the new body.

One MSF source said: 'We have been told that the union is to cut the budget by 30 per cent.' This would affect 'meetings and publications'. He also feared that the union would be more reluctant to take on the government. 'MSF with Roger Kline out the way is now a soft touch for New Labour in the health service.'

He also claimed that concerns had been raised among pharmacists and hospital physicists, with 'several groups looking at leaving'.

MSF Yorkshire and Humberside president Dave Hutchinson, a senior shop steward at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: 'Our main concern is We have effectively got a non-NHS person looking after one of the biggest sections in the MSF.'

He was 'unaware of any advert' for the post, and his own and other health service branches had 'expressed concern at the way this appointment has been made'.

An MSF spokesman said budget decisions had not been finalised but the 30 per cent cut figure was 'one that has been bandied around'.

He said Mr Spiller had dealt with the NHS during a stint as a regional officer, and had been redeployed into the post when portfolios were 'shifted around'.

Mr Spiller said: 'I am looking forward to the challenge of working inside the health sector and we will be focusing on recruitment and representation.'