Speaking in a personal capacity at the Labour party conference in Manchester, BMA deputy chairman Dr Kailash Chand said it was not scaremongering to say the NHS was 'at the brink of extinction'.
'It's true,' he told a fringe meeting organised by Labour Left. 'If we don't do anything the NHS is going to go. We've got to stand up, be counted. I think the Labour party is the one who can do it and save it.'
Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham's proposals to change the NHS from a 'disease service' to a health service as part of his 'whole-person care' policy integrating health and social care was, said Dr Chand, a 'brilliant idea'. 'If anybody can do it,' he added, 'I think Andy can do it.'
Dr Chand, a regular contributor to GP, said his comments were made not as BMA deputy chairman but as someone who had been part of the NHS for 25 years and seen it change.
NHS being torn apart
The service, he said, was being 'torn apart by political ideology and pressure from the commercial sector' and had been 'degraded, demoralised, confused'.
Dr Chand traced the problems in the NHS back to governments under Margaret Thatcher, which he said had ended the political consensus on defending the public health service.
He was also critical of the last Labour government for its use of a market-based NHS system, which he said undermined healthcare by putting profit before patients.
The 2012 Health and Social Care Act was, said Dr Chand, a 'Trojan horse' to 'bring in total privatisation'.
Section 75 and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal are about 'giving, lock stock and barrel, healthcare to the private sector', he added.
Labour has said it will repeal the Act and exclude the NHS from TTIP.
Dr Chand said he did not support higher taxes to increase NHS funding, because there was already enough money 'floating around'. Funding should be raised by closing tax loopholes and clamping down on corporate tax avoidance, he said.