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Lib Dems promise faster diagnosis

The Lib Dems will invest £350m on faster diagnosis of life-threatening conditions if they win the general election in a fortnight's time.

The Liberal Democrats will invest as much as £350m on faster diagnosis of life-threatening conditions if they win the general election in a fortnight's time, the Party has claimed, emerging from the tit-for-tat NHS war zone between the government and the Conservative Party.

Speaking at a press conference in London, Lib Dem leader, Charles Kennedy, revealed that the investment would help up to half a million so-called 'forgotten people' who are currently waiting for treatment on 'hidden waiting lists'.

"At present the government only measures the time taken from when you are diagnosed with an illness until you are actually treated," Kennedy noted.

"These targeted waiting times are indeed being reduced. But those on the hidden waiting lists - those waiting for tests and scans to find out what is wrong with them - have seen no action."

Kennedy also unveiled data collated from 69 of the 154 general acute NHS Trusts which found that patients at two in five NHS Trusts wait six months or more for a routine MRI scan. This wait is extended to over a year at one in five Trusts.

The survey also found that 25 per cent or more of on-site scanning equipment capacity at a quarter of Trusts was not being used because the Trusts could not afford the staff required to run it. A further one in seven said that waiting times for CT scans were longer than six months.

As a result of the research, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to publish waiting times for scans starting from the moment a patient is first referred. The party also said it would roll out a national contract for scanners, using a further £1.35bn to aid the problem in local Trusts.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, has pledged to eradicate waiting times by offering patients the choice of taking 50 per cent of the price of an operation to be treated in a private hospital. Patients would also be able to choose which hospital they are treated at.

Labour has promised to shorten waiting times to 18 weeks, and by the end of next year, patients waiting for an operation will be offered the choice of four or five hospitals to be treated at, including one private option.

30th September 2008

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