Letter: NHS rationing

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Sir: Your article "Fears persist over survival of full and free treatment on the NHS" (1 December) confirms that Labour's election pledge to save the NHS rings hollow.

It is an indictment of Labour's record to date that three out of four of those participating in the survey believe that by 2007 one of the core principles of the NHS - the provision of treatment free at the point of delivery - will be extinct.

The Government must acknowledge that the majority of people surveyed are willing to pay more tax if they could be sure it would lead directly to improvements in the health service. The gulf between what the NHS provides and what the public would like it to deliver is becoming steadily wider. Liberal Democrats believe that this can only be bridged by an increase in real-terms of funding for the NHS and an open debate on the rationing of health services. We call on the Government to come clean on whether it intends to provide the NHS with the resources it needs, or whether the shortfall will be made up by the imposition of patient charges.

SIMON HUGHES MP

(North Southwark and Bermondsey, Lib Dem)

House of Commons

The writer is Liberal Democrat health spokesman

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