Doctors question sustainability of free healthcare
Doctors have called for an "informed discussion" about how long the NHS can afford to offer free healthcare for all.
The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) said a debate is needed to address the future funding of the NHS.
Despite its brief being to provide universal care across the UK, the RCPE said that the NHS is facing increasing financial pressure as a result of an ageing population and new drug treatments.
The group warns that the NHS would be forced to make significant changes if the government's extensive borrowing leads to a reduction in public spending.
Dr Stuart Rodger of the RCPE said: "Rationing of NHS treatment is a very sensitive subject and clearly goes against the founding principle of the NHS, which sought to provide free care for all at the point of need.
"Logically, it can be seen that faced with limited budgets, the NHS can not indefinitely continue to afford to fund free care for all."
He added that new challenges being tackled by the NHS, such as rising obesity and alcohol-related harm, are adding to the financial burden on the service, particularly during the recession, amounting to an NHS "which is not sustainable financially".