Government proposals to introduce round-the-clock medical operations have been labelled as unrealistic by doctors’ leaders.
Earlier this week, prime minister Tony Blair pledged to bring down waiting times from GP referral to treatment to an average of eight weeks. It is part of a drive to ensure no patient waits longer than 18 weeks for their operation by the end of 2008.
Some trusts are known to be considering extending operating times, with theatres set to be open in the evenings and at weekends.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) said inadequate workforce planning had already prevented extended working from happening in many parts of the NHS.
James Johnson, chairman of the BMA, said: “For surgery to be performed over extended hours, we have to have the skilled staff to do the work, and there has been no adequate workforce planning to allow this to happen.”
The BMA also hit out at trusts seeking to save money by cutting funding for training. A spokeswoman said: “Training and education are increasingly being targeted for NHS cuts. Across the country, doctors are being told that they can’t go on essential courses because their trusts can’t afford it.”