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MMR stocks filter through but catch-up drive is still patchy

The spin

Under a new Labour Government, all women with suspected breast cancer can expect a maximum two-week wait to see a consultant by 2008. Seeking to woo women voters, Tony Blair hailed the success of the National Cancer Plan, claiming 33,000 lives have been saved by his party's policies. The Prime Minister also made two further pledges to cut waits for bowel cancer screening to two weeks and for smear results to be turned around in just seven days.

The rebuttal

This is yet another dangerously misguided pledge that the NHS will struggle to achieve, retorted the Conservatives and LibDems.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the target would mean resources being pushed to the front end of the patient's journey in order to hit the target.

Paul Burstow, the LibDem health spokesman, said: 'It is not just a question of getting the tests quickly, it is about getting the result first time, followed by the right treatment.'

The reality?

Cancer charities reacted with cautious optimism. Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said the promise was a 'light at the end of the tunnel' for thousands of women. But Dr Richard Sullivan, head of Cancer Research UK's clinical programmes, warned that there were 'important resource implications. The knock-on effects to secondary care from this proposed change are potentially serious,' he said.

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