Politics: Dobson battles Brown on NHS

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The Independent Online
FRANK DOBSON and the Chancellor Gordon Brown are locked in a Cabinet battle over demands by the Secretary of State for Health for an extra pounds 500m to end the waiting list crisis in NHS hospitals, which will be revealed tomorrow.

Amid fears that the Government will be accused of breaking one of its key election pledges that waiting lists will be cut, Mr Dobson has got the broad backing of the Prime Minister to add around pounds 2bn to the NHS budget next year, but Mr Brown is holding out.

The Chancellor added an extra pounds 300m to the NHS budget to avoid a winter crisis last year, and he announced an increase in spending on the NHS of pounds 1.2bn from 1 April as the centre-piece of his Budget in July last year.

Mr Dobson is arguing that he has applied some unpalatable medicine to the NHS with tight pay restraint on the nurses to meet the Chancellor's tough spending limits, but the demands facing the NHS which he inherited from the Tories are greater than expected.

Whitehall officials have confirmed that the waiting list figures due to be published tomorrow will continue to show a rise in the number of patients waiting for treatment, but the bad figures will reinforce Mr Dobson's demands for more money.

Mr Dobson yesterday gave a clear signal that the figures would be bad, when he praised the hard work of nurses and doctors in coping with the extra demand, which showed no let-up in spite of the mild winter. The numbers being treated will show a rise to record 2.39 million in the last quarter.

He told the Local Government Association that his commitment to give priority to coping with emergency cases had led to increases in waiting lists for elective surgery.

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