Labour's £1bn election pledge. . .HAs 'go into purdah'. . . Chiefs face axe if Labour wins. . .CHCs snowed under. . .Leagues hit the business trail

Published: 21/03/2002, Volume II2, No. 5797 Page 10

Labour will spend an extra£1bn on the NHS in its first full year in power, shadow chancellor John Smith has pledged as the general election campaign got underway.

The party would also levy National Insurance contributions on private health cover provided by employers.

Health authorities have been warned not to discuss 'controversial proposals'during the election campaign.The NHS Management Executive has told chief executives to 'avoid conflicting statements'.One HA declared it had 'gone into purdah'until after the election on 10 April, but NHS Trust Federation chair John Greetham said the advice would not stop him saying how well the reforms were working.

Newly appointed HA chiefs could be sacked within months if Labour wins the election.

Health minister Virginia Bottomley announced 94 chairs'appointments - 23 of them new - just three hours after prime minister John Major declared the election date. Labour claimed the move was a 'constitutional outrage'.

Community health councils are being snowed under with complaints from the public.CHCs blame the increase partly on raised public awareness and partly on a deteriorating service.

Some are appealing to their regional health authorities for extra funds to help cope.

The National Association of Leagues of Hospital Friends wants to become more business-like and recruit younger members. It plans to set limits on officials' terms of office to prevent individuals holding posts for 20 or 30 years. Leagues have suffered in the increasingly competitive world of healthcare charities, with many hospitals putting shops out to tender to generate income instead of letting local leagues run them.