Nearly 140,000 NHS jobs could be axed in a bid to save £20bn , the Daily Mail has reported.
Thousands of doctors and nurses could be sacked and hundreds of operations cancelled after the next election, according to a leaked report.
Management consultants have told ministers that if the NHS wants to save £20bn to meet government targets, it will need to reduce its workforce by 137,000, or 10%, over the next five years.
The leaked document, written by consultancy firm McKinsey, sets out measures that the government could be forced to implement.
These include discharging patients from hospital much earlier, scaling back outpatient appointments, and banning minor procedures such as varicose vein removals and tonsillectomies.
Planned improvements in stroke care and children’s NHS services would also have to be put on hold.
Last night, Labour was accused of planning cuts in secret, with doctors and patients warning they will put patients at risk.
Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley said: “Yet again Labour ministers are failing to be straight with the British people. [Health secretary] Andy Burnham promised to protect the NHS, but now we find out that his department has been drawing up secret plans for swingeing cuts.”
But health minister Mike O’Brien said that ministers had rejected the report and that there were no plans to cut the NHS workforce.
“Advisers advise but ministers will decide after taking a range of advice,” he said. “The McKinsey work is not in any sense an NHS plan of action.
“They are just making some suggestions, which will be looked at with many other ideas.”