NHS waiting lists `set for biggest fall'

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The Independent Online
THE HEALTH Secretary, Frank Dobson, today will announce the biggest single fall in the numbers waiting for operations in the National Health Service.

The reduction in the waiting lists by more than 40,000, over the four months to the end of July, is being treated with glee by ministers as clear evidence that they are on track to deliver Labour's election pledges to cut waiting lists by 100,000.

Mr Dobson knows his job is on the line if he fails to cut the figures dramatically after they rose to 1.29m instead of falling in the first year.

He has promised Tony Blair that the total number waiting for operations will be down to the level inherited by Labour at the general election by the end of the next 12 months.

Mr Dobson said he had instructed hospitals to end the scandal of accident and emergency cases waiting on trolleys for treatment. That forced doctors to postpone routine ``elective'' surgery and got the numbers down And with the extra pounds 18bn promised by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, over the next three years, being targeted at waiting lists, ministers are confident of achieving Labour's manifesto pledge to get the figures down before the next election.

The Tories claimed the figures were being fiddled. They said a 73- year-old woman with varicose veins from Bedford was told this year she must wait three years for an operation. She had a private operation for pounds 2,300.

Mr Dobson's office said there were no records of the patient being on a current NHS waiting list and added: "The patient concerned did have a varicose vein operation carried out privately in 1992....under a Tory Government."

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