Labour talks tough on waiting lists

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 28 March 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:955

The Labour government is trying again to tackle Britain's lengthening waiting lists, as John Warden reports

Unemployment in Britain stands at 1323000 and is falling. Waiting lists for hospital admission are at 1420000 and rising. The crossover point of the dole queue and the sick queue was a defining moment in the first year of the Labour government. Unemployment has receded as a political issue, only to be replaced by the NHS waiting list as a government virility symbol.

Inevitably, a Labour administration committed by its election manifesto to “savethe NHS” was faced with an imperative to act. So in his budget last week the chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, found emergency funding of £500000 ($800000) for a blitz on waiting lists. The health secretary, Frank Dobson, said that it should result in the biggest ever increase in operations in the history of the NHS and the biggest ever cut in waiting lists.

All of that will be necessary if the situation is to be contained. Waiting lists and waiting times have lengthened alarmingly—by …

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