Parliament: Tories flay Labour for its `lethal' policy on the NHS

HEALTH
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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT'S handling of the NHS was a "lethal cocktail of complacency and incompetence", the Tory health spokesman said yesterday as the party stepped up its attack.

Rationing of drugs for mentally ill patients amounted to a "lottery for patients, which is dangerous for communities", Liam Fox said at question time.

In a separate exchange Mr Fox called for a national prostate cancer screening programme for men aged between 50 and 70. Research showed that a three- yearly testing regime and follow-up treatment "significantly" reduced the death rate, he said.

But Yvette Cooper, Public Health minister, said the National Screening Committee had concluded "there was no evidence that introducing widespread population screening would actually reduce the number of deaths from prostate cancer". Prostate cancer killed 8,000 in Britain a year and there was no known way of reducing the risk of developing the disease, she said.

"I am extremely concerned to make sure that we have proper research into prostate cancer and to do something to reduce the risks of deaths and also the distressing symptoms." But Dr Fox, a former GP, pointed to studies in the United States and on the Continent that showed screening and follow-up treatment reduced death rates from the illness.

"Will the Government introduce the Conservative policy to screen all men aged 50-70 every three years?"

Replying, Ms Cooper said there had been "significant investment" in new research totalling more than pounds 800,000 since 1997 and the National Screening Committee was keeping clinical developments under continual review.

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