Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 3

Could the Conservatives' health policy be the most well thought-out the party has delivered? There is much to suggest it is.

It faces up to the challenge of reform and is direct about the logical conclusions of the current direction of travel in a way the government has not quite matched.

Most importantly of all it backs its proposed reforms with investment which outstrips that committed so far by Labour.

Why then have Conservative policies received such a lukewarm reaction from the NHS? There are a number of reasons - the opportunism displayed around MRSA and the alleged health risks of immigration for example - but perhaps most importantly there is the state subsidy for private healthcare.

This might provide the clear blue water between the parties on health.

Unfortunately for the Conservatives it also represents the credibility gap between NHS staff and a belief that the service is safe in Tory hands.