Published: 30/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5925 Page 3

The NHS will be 'safe - in the patient's hands' - if Labour wins a third term, prime minister Tony Blair told the Labour Party conference on Tuesday, in what seemed a deliberate echo of former Conservative Margaret Thatcher's claim that the NHS was safe in Tory hands.

Outlining commitments if Labour was re-elected next year, Mr Blair confirmed that a third term would mean 'all patients able to choose their hospital to book the time and date of treatment, maximum waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks, 100 new hospital schemes, 2,200 GP premises improved and modernised and more to come; life expectations up, cardiac and cancer deaths down'.

He also boasted that Labour was offering choice for every citizen.