HEALTH CARE DISPUTE ADDS SPARK TO BRITISH PARLIAMENT CAMPAIGN

HEALTH CARE DISPUTE ADDS SPARK TO BRITISH PARLIAMENT CAMPAIGN

A dispute over the ability of the cradle-to-grave state health service to treat all Britons quickly and free of charge is charging up an otherwise lackluster campaign for next month's Parliamentary elections.

Labour, which established the free health service after its post-war landslide election victory, accused the tax-cutting Conservatives of starving hospitals of cash during their last 13 years in power. After a week of sterile campaigning dominated by exchanges over taxes and the economy, Labour pledged to pump an extra $1.75 billion into the service, which already costs about $50 billion a year.Meanwhile, the ruling Conservatives accused the opposition Labour Party of using Nazi-style propaganda by running an emotive television commercial about a schoolgirl who waited 11 months for an ear operation at a state hospital. Another girl was treated quickly because her parents paid for private surgery.

Despite claims by the girl's mother that the wait for treatment was because of an administrative error rather than cash or staff shortages, Labour produced a letter from the doctor in the case citing shortage of nurses on weekends and said the party had been "inundated" with telephone calls highlighting similar cases.

Neither of the two main parties has managed to take a commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of the April 9 election, raising the prospect of a ''hung" Parliament last seen in 1974.