Waldegrave under fire. . . Tobacco row. . .Patient's Charter introduces new rights. . .

PR strategy under fire. . . Election squabble Three out of four believe long waiting lists are pushing patients into the private sector, and only one in five feels health secretary William Waldegrave is doing a good job, according to an NOP opinion poll which gave Labour a six-point lead over the Conservatives.

Regional general managers have told Mr Waldegrave that his proposed Health of the Nation strategy needs to be kick-started by a 'tangible demonstration of government commitment', such as a ban on tobacco advertising. Their voice adds weight to calls from many health authorities for the government to vote in favour of a European-wide ban.

The Patient's Charter, to be introduced from April, will enshrine three 'important new rights': to detailed information on local health services, including quality standards and maximum waiting times; to guaranteed admission for treatment within two years of being put on a waiting list; and to have any complaint investigated and followed by a full and prompt written reply from the chief executive.

The Department of Health has drawn up a public relations strategy to promote positive aspects of the internal market reforms. It calls on managers to forward 'good news stories' to it on a weekly basis. It also proposes an early-warning system to draw its attention to problems which could lead to bad publicity. The Institute of Health Services Management said the NHS Management Executive had to be 'demonstrably honest' about the NHS.

Commons health select committee chair Nicholas Winterton has come under fire from Tory colleagues over plans to relaunch his inquiry into trusts before the general election. He said a number had complained that it would present Labour with further opportunities to attack the government in one of its most vulnerable areas.