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Andrew Lansley says Labour's latest health pledge shows they are using the NHS as a "political football"

LANSLEY ANDREW NW Yesterday it was retaining the hunting ban which was to be a "key plank" in Labour's election strategy.

In today's Sunday Telegraph, the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, declares that a Labour pledge on health will be a "key battleground" at the general election.

The pledge in question is Labour's promise to give patients the legal right to free private care if they don't get the treatment they need from the NHS within 18 weeks - with cancer patients getting funding for private treatment if they haven't seen a specialist within two weeks of being referred by a GP.

It would appear that Labour's tactic is to pass a law enacting this pledge shortly before the general election in order to enable the party to scaremonger during the campaign by suggesting that an incoming Conservative Government would abolish it.

Says Burnham:

"This is about embedding patient rights and will prevent a return to the days when people languished on waiting lists under a Tory government... Will the Tories row back on measures that give patients what they have a right to expect?"

But Andrew Lansley has hit back, and accused Labour of using the NHS as a "political football":

"This is the latest in a series of unaffordable and uncosted pledges that have more to do with electioneering than improving the NHS. It will be treated with contempt by NHS staff and rejected by patients because it does not put them in charge.

"They claim that these will be legally enforceable new rights, but are Labour really planning to put the lawyer in the operating theatre? Do they trust the doctors to do their job or do they want judges telling surgeons who they should operate on first?" 

Jonathan Isaby


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