Letter: Cures for the NHS

Sir: You report on the Prime Minister's comments regarding Labour's plans to improve the NHS ("PM attacked over private visit to wards", 14 January). Specifically, Blair stated that 20 years of problems in the NHS (caused by the Conservatives) cannot be turned around in 20 months, but that Labour is addressing the problems.

The implication is that, by the end of Labour's first term the NHS will be in measurably better shape than it was when Labour took office.

Treasury figures show that in 18 years of Conservative government, 1979 to 1997, the NHS received an average annual real increase of 3.1 per cent. In Labour's first five-year term, the equivalent figure will be 3.7 per cent. Labour is thus giving the NHS an additional annual increase, as compared to the Conservatives, of 0.6 per cent.

No-one would suggest that this extra annual increase, which on a current NHS budget of pounds 85,000 per minute is worth an extra pounds 500 per minute, is anything other than helpful. Whether it is sufficient to finance the sort of improvement that the Prime Minister has implied must be highly doubtful.

M C FITZPATRICK

Head of Economics

Chantrey Vellacott DFK

London WC1B

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