The three main political parties have come out fighting over what 10 years under a Labour government has meant for the NHS.

The government robustly defended its management of the NHS with the publication of four Department of Health progress reports on key service areas - emergency care, cancer, coronary heart disease and mental health.

Unveiling the reports at the King's Fund on Monday prime minister Tony Blair and health secretary Patricia Hewitt said Labour reform had brought about major improvements. The reports said A&E departments had been 'transformed' and cardiac services 'improved enormously', while 'investment and clear direction of travel set out in the NHS cancer plan' had reduced cancer deaths in under-75s by nearly 16 per cent.

Similarly, 'unprecedented investment' had helped bring about a 7.4 per cent cut in suicides.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats published their own assessments, which called Mr Blair's legacy 'incompetent' and 'wrong'.

The Conservatives said Labour 'dismantled' Tory policies 'only to re-erect them years later, and administer them incompetently'.

Official government waiting figures showing 100 per cent of people were seen within six months were misleading, the Conservatives argued. According to their report, The NHS under Labour: 10 wasted years, statistics from individual hospitals suggested 90 per cent.

The Liberal Democrats' report The State They've Put Us In: 10 years of Blair and Brown, acknowledged there were 'more staff, reduced waiting lists, and better care in some areas'. But it criticised Labour's record on 16 points, including deficits, use of management consultants and threatened closure of community hospitals.