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Health tops manifestos

Health is the focus of Labour and Lib Dem election campaigning as the Conservatives target "binge drinking".

Health is the focus of Labour and Lib Dem election campaigning as the Conservatives target "binge drinking".

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has launched an attack on the "hidden" waiting lists for diagnosis in the NHS.

Tony Blair will counter the attack by highlighting measures to promote the health of children and young people.

The NHS was in the campaign spotlight last week and Labour wants to keep attention on an issue it sees as one of its strengths.

Blair will set out plans to promote health for the nation's young people, building on pledges for quicker treatment for breast cancer.

He told a party rally in Birmingham that the Conservatives' proposals would run down NHS funding and mean a worse service for those who could not afford to go private.

But Michael Howard rejected Labour claims that the Tory policy of paying up to half the cost of an NHS operation for those going private amounted to the introduction of charging.

The Lib Dems attacked Labour's health plan as too focused on centrally-imposed targets.

And they have published new research, which they say shows about 500,000 people are stuck on "hidden" waiting lists for essential scans.

Kennedy said the government's policy of setting targets for the time taken from diagnosis to treatment - but not measuring the wait for an initial scan - is "totally unacceptable".

The party is promising an extra £350m to help those patients "waiting up to six months" for routine scans to diagnose tumours or heart conditions.

Howard will instead argue that too many people are intimidated by drunken "yobs".

The Tory five-point plan includes curbing "all you can drink" promotions, giving councils new powers to block licence applications in late-night trouble spots and employing more police.

The Green Party will launch its animal welfare policy on Tuesday, by accusing the Labour government of "breaking almost every one of its pledges" on the issue.

The party's main speaker, Keith Taylor, will then set out policies to ban fur imports and animal testing, and promise immediate action on climate change.

2nd September 2008

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