Letter: Cash squeeze on the NHS

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report ("Hospitals losing battle to cut lists", 22 August) that in response to the rise in NHS waiting lists "the BMA and opposition parties said there was no hope of cutting the waiting lists without extra cash for the NHS above the extra pounds lbn already pledged for hospitals in England next year." In fact, of the opposition parties, only the Liberal Democrats are calling for extra funding.

In fact, it is astonishing that the Labour government has the gall to blame the rise in waiting times on the Tory NHS spending record (a clearly inadequate average 3 per cent real-terms growth over the last 10 years) while at the same time adopting Tory NHS spending plans (a grossly inadequate flat growth over the next two years).

The so-called extra money for next year will be more than cancelled out by additional inflation and existing Trust and Health Authority deficits in the NHS. While Tory and Labour bicker over who is to blame for the crisis in the NHS, the Health Service is facing a medium-term funding squeeze from which it may never recover.

Labour's dual pledges to "save the NHS" and not to raise direct taxation for five years are incompatible. It looks increasingly as if it will be the sick and elderly rather than the well-off who will suffer from the inevitable betrayal of one of these election pledges.

Dr EVAN HARRIS MP

(Oxford W and Abingdon, Lib Dem)

House of Commons

London SW1

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