A conference in Brighton has been told that cuts are being made in the NHS in a haphazard way.
As a result patient care could be harmed, said Dr Hamish Meldrum, while jobs are being lost and patients are being denied access to services.
The Government had pledged to protect frontline National Health Service staff from cuts, but savings would still have to be found, said Dr Meldrum.
The reasons included the rising cost of the NHS as a result of the ageing population, the development of new treatments and the spread of obesity.
He warned that even cuts to backroom staff, such as those working in administration, still affected doctors and nurses as they often ended up taking on that work themselves.
He added that there should be greater consultation with staff and patients.