NEWS FOCUS

'Perhaps It is all down to money, but I do not think That is any excuse' Birmingham is generally seen as part of Labour's heartlands, yet the city provided one of the stickiest moments for the party, when Mr Blair met Sharron Storer.Edgbaston was perhaps the exception to the rule: until Ms Stuart won the seat in 1997, it had been Conservative since1922.

Paul Smith took to the streets to find out what the people of Birmingham think about health as a political issue Jean Brown,57, a secretary from Wolverhampton, says: 'Health is really important, is not it? So many depend on it, like the elderly and people like that, and we all pay our taxes for it.I know that a lot of people complain about it, and the nurses and doctors should be paid more money because they do a tremendous job.I have to say that, in my own experience, I have never really had much to complain about.'

David Robertson,43, a manager who lives in Edgbaston, says: 'The NHS is never going to get the money that it needs to provide the kind of care that people expect.Treatments are so expensive now and science has progressed so much.The issue for me is that, in other countries in Europe, more is spent on health.We are always trying to squeeze out more and more without being prepared to put more money in.'

Paul Abbott,24, unemployed from Birmingham, says: 'Everyone talks about giving the NHS more money and wanting more doctors and nurses, but It is hypocritical really because no-one wants to pay more tax, do they?

That is what is more important to most people.I think people just say they care about health and education because they want to look like they care about it.'

Simon Patterson,60, from Harborne, within Ms Stuart's constituency, says: 'I think the state of the health service is terrible.You can't get to see your doctor for weeks on end, and then you end up waiting even longer for operations and things like that because of this waiting list business. I do not think Labour have done a good job. It doesn't seem much different to the way it was with the Conservatives.They are all the same, these politicians.They would tell you anything to get your vote and then they all turn out the same.'

Colin James,45, an engineer from Halesowen, says: 'I certainly think doctors and nurses should get more money because they do a great job when you think what they have to deal with.It must be really hard for them.'

Mary White,67, a pensioner from Wolverhampton, says: 'I do not really know what is going on.There has been this organ scandal thing going on, then the Shipman case and now this thing in the local paper about this woman not getting the drugs she needs.It all seems to be turning bad.'

John Poole,66, from Birmingham, says: 'I am concerned about dirty hospitals.The conditions of some of these places are appalling.I do not know whose fault it is, but they could improve the cleaning.Perhaps it is down to money, but I do not think that is any excuse.'