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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
At-a-glance: Labour vs Tories on NHS
Conservative health policy

On Choice:

A Tory government would offer patients free of charge the choice of any hospital - including those private hospitals which match the cost of NHS operations.

Private sector:

Patients wishing to use private care can take a state subsidy with them of up to 50% of the cost of NHS treatment (formerly known as the 'patient passport' scheme).


Tories would ban all centrally imposed hospital targets so hospitals can set their own, including over waiting times.

Foundation Hospitals:

Tories want more hospitals to become foundation trusts with more freedom. They want to lift controls on the amount these hospitals can borrow on the open market and on staff pay levels.

Health Spending:

By 2009/10 Tories will raise NHS spending by 34bn a year above the levels they inherit - this is roughly in line with Labour's plans.

Labour health policy

Labour has pledged to allow patients the choice of four or five hospitals by 2006. It is now thought likely that choice will be extended to any hospital by 2008.

Labour allows NHS managers to buy some operations from privately-run specialist treatment centres, but says direct subsidies to patients for private healthcare will just benefit the better off.

Committed to centrally-set targets arguing they up standards. New target could limit waiting lists to 18 weeks.

At the moment only top-rated trusts can apply to become foundation trusts. There are restrictions on how much they can borrow on the open market. All hospitals to be foundation by 2008.

Spending on the NHS to increase in real terms by 7.4% per year up to 2007/8, when 109bn will be spent on it.

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Differences over the health service will be crucial in how Britain votes"

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