Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox has described health authorites as a 'bureaucratic burden' - and promised an end to the 'postcode lottery' of treatment should his party win the election.

In a wide-ranging briefing this week he reiterated his earlier pledge to scrap the waiting-list initiative, claiming it was damaging patient care as hospitals attempted to hit targets imposed by the government rather than concentrating on the quality of treatment.

Dr Fox said the move would save the NHS£350m and under the Conservative alternative 'patients will be given a maximum waiting time determined by the clinician, not an arbitrary waiting time set by politicians'.

He argued that Conservative plans would allow those most in need of treatment to get the care they needed.

Dr Fox said the main focus of Conservative health policy would be primary care and called for GPs to be given more control over patient referrals.

Negotiation with the patient should determine where treatment took place, he said, not the diktats of HAs, bodies which he described as 'a bureaucratic burden on the NHS'.

Legislation introduced under a Conservative administration, should the party win the election, would include creation of an 'exceptional medicines fund', which Dr Fox claimed would bring an end to the so-called 'postcode lottery' and ensure specialist treatment was available to all who needed it.

The budget for the fund would be set by the health secretary with an expert committee distributing the money.

The system would not end healthcare rationing - that would always exist, he said - but it would make the system 'more transparent'. Dr Fox also pledged that a Conservative government would retain community health councils.