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Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 05:05 GMT 06:05 UK


Waiting list pledge stays - Milburn

To abandon the waiting list pledge would be a major embarrassment

The new Health Secretary Alan Milburn has denied he is to abandon one of Labour's key election pledges - to cut hospital waiting lists by 100,000.

The BBC's Carole Walker: "Mr Milburn is demanding a rigorous appraisal"
The Observer says he is abandoning the pledge to reduce hospital waiting lists by 100,000 - it is currently about 30,000 short of this target.

But Mr Milburn said: "We will meet the waiting list pledge by the next election, but that's just a start - we need to modernise every aspect of NHS treatment starting with the big killers of heart disease, cancer and mental health."

[ image: Alan Milburn says he will not go back on election promises]
Alan Milburn says he will not go back on election promises
He is also demanding a rethink of health policy to focus on cancer and heart disease.

Mr Milburn has summoned 12 of the country's leading heart surgeons to his office on Monday morning for a searching appraisal of the strategy to tackle heart disease.

He wants what is being described as a step-change in the performance of the NHS in tackling a disease that kills around 260,000 people each year.

Labour sources denied Mr Milburn's comments implied criticism of his predecessor Frank Dobson.

Mr Milburn is expected to introduce target waiting times for heart patients and cancer sufferers as part of a fresh effort to improve results in tackling these diseases.

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