conference focus

'This house believes that rationing is both inevitable and desirable.' Or rather, it did until a fiery Dr Ian Banks - chair of the British Medical Association's working group on men's health - took to the stage.

'Let's not kid ourselves... We are not talking about it being fair and equal. We are talking about letting down one section of society... limiting resources for people who cannot afford the black market,' he said.

In the main, Dr Banks stuck to a brief to 'open the minds' of delegates who he felt had been 'brainwashed into accepting the inevitability of rationing'. But he couldn't resist the chance to lash out at a few extra targets.

'The government is not doing enough about cigarette smoking,' he said, shortly before attacking the government's stance on junior doctors' working hours.

A vote at the start of the debate found a 'fearsome majority' backed the inevitability and desirability of rationing - a motion proposed by Dr Charles Shaw, director of audit and quality for CASPE Research.

The inevitability of limited resources meant rationing could 'preserve choice by pruning it', make choices transparent and prevent 'shady negotiations', he argued.

An hour later, his majority was lost and many supporters had picked holes in the motion. A second vote found that while most agreed rationing was 'inevitable', there were few left to defend its desirability.