Op-pickers can tune to NHS prize draw

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The Independent Online
Growing desparate and tired of waiting for that varicose vein, or in-grown toenail operation? Then it is time to tune in to Radio Thamesmead's breakfast show and a great new competition.

While the average DJ's prattle is unlikely to relieve the pain of patients who wait months on hospital lists, this show promises listeners a chance of immediate surgery. From 7.15am next Monday RTM, an independent station in south-east London, will make daily announcements of last- minute cancellations and 'no- shows' for operations at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, Kent.

Listeners can dial a hotline telephone number and ask hospital staff for the operation of their choice. The quickest on the draw will have an operation that day.

'Providing they are already on the hospital's waiting list, it will be first come, first served,' said John Fahey, the hospital's patient services manager. 'About 200 slots a year are lost because of last-minute cancellations which come so late that we have little success in contacting people on the waiting list. People can be taking children to school or going to work while we are trying to reach them. We think we can reach more people this way.'

He recognises the scheme, believed to be the first of its kind, may add to disquiet about the market-orientated NHS, but argues: 'We cannot afford the waste of resources.'