NHS waiting lists show further rise

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The Independent Online
A FURTHER rise in National Health Service waiting lists and new figures showing that class sizes are at their highest level for more than 20 years will put pressure Tony Blair this week to avoid Labour breaking its election pledges, writes Colin Brown.

The figures will be used by cabinet ministers Frank Dobson and David Blunkett to argue for more money for health and education in the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review to be announced in July.

President Bill Clinton yesterday advised Mr Blair on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost programme that keeping pledges made in the campaign was one of the priorities for securing a second term of office.

Commitments to cutting waiting lists and cutting class sizes were among Labour's five promises at the general election. But figures published this week will show that around 1.3 million primary school pupils are in classes of 31 or more.

The Secretary of State for Health is expected to announce he will be spending pounds 68m from the pounds 500m already allocated to reducing waiting lists on schemes to allow patients to leave hospital for care at home. The figures are expected to show a rise of a further 40,000 patients on the waiting list since the start of the year, pushing the total waiting to 1.3 million patients. Labour promised to cut 100,000 off the waiting lists, but they went up by 100,000 in the first nine months.

Opposition parties last night demanded an urgent Commons statement from Mr Dobson.