The Department of Health has dismissed claims that NHS care for heart patients in the UK was among the worst in the Western world.

The Daily Mail yesterday put Britain near the bottom of international league tables for the number of operations such as heart bypasses and angioplasties.

The newspaper's figures said that 202 heart bypasses were carried out per 100,000 population in the United States, compared with only 35 in the UK.

For angioplasties - which treat clogged arteries - there were 339 in the US compared with 37 in the UK, per 100,000.

However, the figures were from 1998, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

A statement from the Department of Health said the figures did not reflect the "significant growth in heart surgery in the UK since that time".

It said: "We are well on track to meet the target for 2008 to double the heart surgery capacity of the NHS in England."

Since March 2000, when the Government announced a new strategy to modernise and improve coronary heart disease treatment, the department said an extra 4,800 heart operations had been carried out.

There had been a huge drive to cut waiting lists.

"Waiting times have fallen rapidly, and few patients now wait more than 12 months for their operation, compared to an 18-month maximum wait a few years ago."

The Government, it said, had committed itself to more than £300m of extra investment in heart services, "which will consolidate and accelerate the significant improvements already being made".