Consultants have called for health secretary Alan Milburn to restore regional responsibility for shaping hospital developments.

The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association said a 'problem of political integrity' meant that decisions on service configurations were being swayed by the preferences of 'MPs in marginal seats'.

Its council agreed to write to Mr Milburn, 'highlighting our concerns', after Dr Catriona Henderson suggested that 'the only way to get around' decisions being made 'politically and arbitrarily' was to have services planned on 'a region to region basis'.

Retired consultant Malcolm Morrison said 'any sort of planning should be on a rational basis' and 'done at a level that means it can override the highly charged reactions' of local politicians.

Dr Reg Johnstone - consultant anaesthetist at Kidderminster General Hospital and a leading campaigner against plans to downgrade its services - said regional planning could clarify whether decisions were financially or clinically led.