SDP founder Lord Owen has called on Liberal Democrat MPs to vote down the government’s NHS reforms, even if they are substantially changed.

He said the NHS was being “pushed to conceptual destruction” and that it was “almost impossible” to sufficiently rewrite such a flawed bill.

Lord Owen, speaking in Birmingham at the annual conference of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said he agreed with Mr Lansley that failing to reform the NHS at all was “not an option” given looming pressures.

But he said professionals wanted it done by evolving existing changes not dropping a “massive legislative spanner” in the works.

“It is almost impossible to establish coherence by amendment when its basic concepts are to limit Parliament’s role and the responsibility for comprehensive health care,” he said.

“A sufficient number of Liberal Democrat MPs can surely be found to vote this bill down…with the official Labour Opposition, some Northern Ireland MPs and Scottish and Welsh Nationalists, where such legislation would not have a hope of getting through their legislatures.

“To proceed with legislation spatchcocked together is just an attempt to preserve the face of ministers in the coalition government.”

The government’s “listening exercise” had shown that professionals and users believed only minor legislative changes were required, Lord Owen claimed.

“To drop this massive legislative spanner into the works, not expected to be law now until 2012, would be a profound error.”