Tuesday, September 29, 1998 Published at 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
£30m pumped into casualty
Accident and Emergency Departments are to be revamped
The government has announced an extra £30m to modernise 50 accident and emergency (A&E) departments next year.
The cash will help upgrade a quarter of all NHS casualty departments to make them better for patients and safer for staff.
In a separate announcement, ministers are to invest £25m in a pilot project to launch 24 instant booking systems for hospital appointments across the country.
Speaking at the Labour Party annual conference in Blackpool, Prime Minister Tony Blair also pledged the government to the "biggest ever hospital building programme" and to a £1bn investment in NHS information technology.
The new cash for A&E departments will be spent on:
"Too often, patients have to wait in overcrowded and squalid conditions. This money will make it possible to provide patients with faster, top-quality care.
"This investment will also help 'design-out' violence against staff in casualty departments."
The British Medical Association said any measures to cut violence against NHS staff were welcome.
The NHS Confederation, which represents hospital managers, also welcomed the move.
However, a spokeswoman said: "Equally as important is the need for sufficient trained staff to cope with the peaks of activity experienced in casualty departments."
On the spot appointments
The hospitals taking part in the National Booked Admissions Programme will allow doctors to book operation dates while their patients are being seen in an outpatients' clinic.
GPs will also get access to the new instant booking system, so they can book hospital outpatient appointments while their patient is at the surgery.
Mr Dobson said: "This is what a modern and dependable NHS is all about.
"Designing quick and accurate services around the needs and convenience of patients. These pilots will harness new technology to cut waiting and cut anxiety of patients.
"Patients will be able to agree dates which suit them, and take into account their family and work responsibilities. It will do away with those long, stressful days waiting for the letter about the hospital appointment.
"The new system will also cut bureaucracy. It should mean both fewer cancelled operations and fewer instances of patients not turning up for their appointment."