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The Liberal Democrats' choice of businesswoman Susan Kramer as their candidate for mayor of London takes the heat off the health service - at least for now.

Ms Kramer is a transport expert, who has vowed to make the issue her number one priority. And, as the first candidate officially in the field, she should be able to make some of the running for the time being.

But Labour hopeful Ken Livingstone demonstrated in an outburst last week that, even though the mayor will not have executive power over the capital's NHS, he or she could still prove a thorn in the side for managers.

Speaking in the wake of allegations about death rates at the Royal Brompton Hospital, Mr Livingstone threatened to 'name and shame' surgeons unless a public inquiry was set up by September, and demanded the resignation of its chief executive.

He also accused doctors of a 'cover-up' over the death of17-year-old Krista Ocloo, adding: 'It looks to me like a classic pattern of clinical negligence and on a pretty grand scale, which may have killed several peopleHis comments provoked an angry response from Royal Brompton and Harefield trust, which issued a statement pointing out that it had set up an independent review panel back in June - on the day it received a single anonymous allegation.

'Far from being engaged in any cover-up, the trust took immediate action to inquire into one unspecific allegation. The allegation of a cover-up is outrageous,' it says.

Mr Livingstone's attack on the trust also proved a step too far for London's Evening Standard, which has claimed its fair share of health service scalps in the past, but which on this occasion issued him a sound rebuke. Its health correspondent, Jo Revill, wrote that she had seen summaries written by the independent medical assessors who looked into Ms Ocloo's case. 'They found that despite confusion over the follow-up, her death could not have been prevented.'

Despite Mr Livingstone's failure to make much headway against the trust and its doctors, his intervention may be a warning of things to come - and not just if Mr Livingstone gets the job.

Earlier in the year, Tory hopeful Jeffrey Archer told the Greater London Forum, which he set up to promote his candidature, how he would deal with NHS issues - about which, he conceded, 'I have very little knowledge'.

The admission may not make happy reading for anyone hoping a London mayor will prove to be an informed ally in the difficult decisions clinicians and managers face.

'Although the health service will not come under the direct control of the mayor, it is very important that the mayor should know what is going on and be able to voice the views of those who feel strongly,' Mr Archer said.

'I learned from New York's mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, how it is possible to have an effect even in areas where one has no power.

'I have been in a car with him when an educationalist or a doctor rings up and says: 'This is disgraceful, Mr Mayor.'

'He does not hesitate, if he trusts the person who is talking to him - someone he holds in regard - to literally go on television 15 minutes later and let New Yorkers know what is happening.'