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Howard in Commons row over knee ops

MICHAEL HOWARD: angry exchanges with the Prime Minister
MICHAEL HOWARD: angry exchanges with the Prime Minister

CLAIMS that patients in Folkestone have to wait nearly a year for knee operations sparked angry clashes between Tony Blair and Michael Howard during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr Howard, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, raised the case of patients forced to wait 349 days for a knee operation which could be done at another hospital 60 miles away in little more than a month.

The Conservative leader went on tackle Mr Blair over patient choice, saying the delays experienced by patients meant his party’s policy of allowing patients to choose which hospital they went to was right.

“Under our plans, patients will have the right to choose whichever hospital they want to go to within the NHS and free of charge. Is not that what patients should have?” he said.

But Mr Blair retaliated by taunting the Kent MP over his disclosure, reported by the Kentish Express, that he had returned to frontline politics because he was so angry about the state of the NHS.

“I was reading he came back to frontline politics because of his anger at the state of the NHS. He must have been incandescent when he was in government. He was so angry, it left him speechless because he never raised the state of the NHS.”

A spokesman for Conservative Central Office said Mr Howard had based his claim on research conducted by the specialist medical journal Dr Foster, which had compared the performances of different trusts.

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