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Tuesday, 26 May, 1998, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Tories claim more than 100 hospitals face closure or cuts
The Tories say more than 100 hospitals face cuts or closure
The Tories claim massive cuts are planned in the hospital sector
A row has blown up after opposition claims that more that more than 100 hospitals have been earmarked for cuts or closure.

Labour has dismissed the claims, made Shadow Health Secretary John Maples, as "riddled with inaccuracies".

The row began after the Conservatives published a survey which showed 62 hospitals had been earmarked by the government for possible closure. The party claimed a further 39 faced reductions in services.

Mr Maples attacked the government, claiming it was failing to keep its election pledges.

"Labour won the election promising to save the health service. Since then, they have presided over record waiting lists, rising 2,700 per week," said Mr Maples.

"They have cut funding below the 3.1% average increase under the Conservatives, and the result is that they are now planning to make 101 cuts and closures in our health service.

Mr Maples said his survey had been "based on people contacting us with the details of local cuts and closures".

"It is not fully comprehensive - we fear this may be just the tip of the iceberg."

Tip of the iceberg

He said Labour's "attack" on community hospitals was hurting rural communities the elderly hardest of all.

"This is more than just a let down for the people that elected this Government believing they would protect services. It's an attack on the very foundations of the health service."

Unwarranted claims

But Labour hit back, claiming the attack was unwarranted and that government was investing in the biggest new hospital-building programme in the history of the NHS.

Many of the so-called hospital closures were actually mergers of trusts designed to reduce bureaucracy. No merger was given the go-ahead by ministers unless it can be demonstrated that 500,000 can be diverted into patient care within two years.

Health secretary Frank Dobson disputed the Tory figures, but admitted he did not know how many hospitals were facing closure or cuts.

BBC News
Frank Dobson and John Maples discuss the Tory claims
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