Jennifer's ear 'war'. . . 'fast-track' list data demand. . hospital waits soar. . ambulance system shut-down. . BMA demands crossover funds

Published: 04/04/2002, Volume II2, No. 5799 Page 84

A Labour Party election broadcast centring on delays to a child's grommet operation has caused a major row and been dubbed 'the war of Jennifer's ear'.After journalists tracked down the family of the child on whose case the film was based, Labour's claims that she had been failed by an underfunded NHS were disputed by the Conservatives and by some members of the family itself, threatening to undermine a central plank of Labour's strategy.

Waiting-list managers have been ordered to phone in final figures for two-year waits within 24 hours to enable the government to make an immediate announcement on expected progress.The arrangements, viewed as unique in NHS history, raised concerns that the figures would be used for party-political purposes.The monthly 'fast-track'data is usually available three weeks after the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting up to a year for treatment at the flagship Guy's and Lewisham trust has soared in the first year of reforms by 11.5 per cent compared with a 0.6 per cent fall the year before.The trend is reflected nationally.

London ambulance service has been forced to shut down parts of its new computerised dispatch system, which has been only partially implemented, after staff gave an ultimatum and refused to operate it.The action followed the 'loss'of several 999 calls, resulting in delays and alleged deaths.

The British Medical Association has demanded extra resources for the NHS to enable clinicians to become more involved in management.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved the policy, apparently contradicting the BMA's concern at rising management costs brought about by the internal market.