Cancelled: surgery that helped PM

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Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust has wiped dozens of people from waiting lists for cardiac catheter ablation, the operation which cured Tony Blair of an irregular heartbeat. The trust said that it had been forced to restrict the treatment to only the most desperate cases to cut costs.

But patients, pressure groups and MPs say they believe the operations - which have a 95 per cent success rate - were stopped to meet maximum six-month wait targets.

The alarm was first raised by the Arrhythmia Alliance a month ago after the patients' group was deluged by complaints from disappointed sufferers and concerned doctors.

They now hope the public row will force the trust into a rethink.

The Alliance's founder, Trudie Lobban, said: "The trust are saying it's because of the cost, but it's ironic that in one fell swoop they have got rid of their waiting list."