A health boss has resigned over fears doctors could refuse to treat patients in a bid to save money.

Dr Jerry Luke stepped down as medical director of Crawley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) because he believed cuts will affect patient care.

Hospital chiefs claimed doctors would never restrict treatments for low-level problems because of the cost but admitted to ordering a “rationalisation” of services.

Speaking at a national medical conference, Dr Luke said: “CCGs only have one real duty and that is to end the year in budget.

“CCGs are not allowed to run out of money. They can run out of services, but they cannot run out of money.

“I fear without the GMC [General Medical Council] telling us time and again that our patients have to come first, before the money, then we are going to be led by some of our colleagues who are quite happy to cut and slash just like the Department of Health wants.

“I personally am not prepared to carry on like this.”

At the meeting of Local Medical Committee, Dr Luke put forward a motion calling on NHS bosses to stop “putting financial targets ahead of clinical priorities”.

Other reasons Dr Luke gave for his resignation were a rise in practice workload and the bureaucracy involved in clinical commissioning.

Bosses at the Crawley CCG claimed cost-cutting would not affect patient care, but admitted Dr Luke had resigned partly in protest at the “rationalisation” of services.

Dr Amit Bhargava, clinical commissioning officer for Crawley CCG, said: “It’s all about living within your means. You can’t have people shopping in Harrods when the local Tesco would do just as well.

“What we have said to our GP colleagues is that a GP should never refuse care to any patient based on costs. But there’s going to be £60 million less in the NHS over the next ten years so there’s got to be a different way of providing services. There’s no other alternative.”

GP Christa Beelsey, chief clinical lead for the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I am pleased to reassure the public and patients in Brighton and Hove that we have not put any extra measures in place to limit GP referrals for any procedures deemed non-urgent or low clinical priority.”