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Michael Howard: Margaret Dixon's case is not an exception

Speaking at a press conference to highlight the case of Margaret Dixon, Conservative Party Leader, Michael Howard, said:

"I would like to introduce Lindsay and Ken Dixon. Ken is Mrs Dixon's husband and Lindsay is their daughter.

In a moment they're going to tell you their story - it's a story about a family that's worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes and depended on our National Health Service.

Like all of us, their concern is not about the dedicated and caring doctors and nurses who work so hard for our NHS. It's about the system - a system that has let their family down.

Yesterday Mr Blair told me that cases like the Dixon's were an exception to the rule. But they're not. Last year 67,000 operations were cancelled - that's an increase of 10,000 on 1999.

Cancelled operations cause trauma not just to the patients - but to their families, as well as to the doctors and nurses involved.

The problem we face is that so much of the money Mr Blair has spent on the NHS has been wasted on bureaucracy. That's why families like the Dixons are not getting value for money.

Consider these four facts.

Spending has increased by over 70 per cent since 1999. But there are now more bureaucrats in primary care trusts than GPs. Managers are being taken on at three times the rate of doctors and nurses. And the number of managers and bureaucrats has gone up 26,000. It's hardly surprising money is not getting through to the frontline.

This morning John Reid said that this was all a political "game". It's not. It's about real families, real people - people who've worked hard, paid their taxes and deserve better. He also said he wanted people to write to him.

Well the Dixons local MEP did on their behalf in January. I've got the letter here. But he couldn't even be bothered to reply. So let's have no more synthetic anger from Mr Blair and his ministers about the Dixon's case.

I've lost count of the times doctors and nurses have told me money isn't getting through to the frontline, that their clinical decisions are distorted by Whitehall targets and that their judgement is often second guessed by bureaucrats.

Three years ago Mr Blair said, and I quote his exact words: "If the NHS is not basically fixed by the next election, then I am quite happy to suffer the consequences".

Mr Blair may think that he's fixed the NHS. But I think we could be doing so much better.

After all Britain is the fourth richest economy in the world. Patients not very far away in France aren't treated like this.

The Government I lead will invest more in the health service.

We'll put local professionals - doctors and nurses - back in charge by abolishing the Whitehall targets that are the cause of so many of the problems we face.

And we'll give patients choice over where they are treated.

Because at the end of the day this is all about patients - and how they are cared for.

Thank you - the Dixons would now like to say a few words."

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