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Received political wisdom suggests that, for all its higher profile and glitzy royal launch, the Scottish Parliament has got off to a slower start than the Welsh Assembly. At first glance, the verdict seems fair as regards health.

The Scottish Parliament's health and community care committee has met precisely once - and spent a sizeable chunk of the hour-long meeting trying to decide whether to meet again this summer.

It has still to develop a work programme, and to meet health minister Susan Deacon formally, although she is answering health questions on the Scottish Parliament website.

The Welsh Assembly health and social services committee, meanwhile, has met four times, revised the work programme drawn up for it by officials, received a number of reports and started to face up to the unenviable financial problems of the NHS in Wales.

Early differences also seem to have emerged in the way the two bodies do business.

Following the remit of the Assembly as a whole, the first meeting of the health and social services committee was thoroughly 'consensual'. Health and social services minister Jane Hutt, who sits on the committee, issued a statement containing phrases such as 'exciting challenge' and 'need for partnership'.

Assembly members responded by finding 'quite a lot that we can advance upon' (Conservative David Melding) and 'areas of consensus' (Liberal Democrat chair Kirsty Williams).

A week later, the Scottish health and community care committee's first meeting was dominated by an all-out political debate on the private finance initiative, one of the most divisive issues in the election campaign.

Lib Dem convenor Margaret Smith suggested that the committee could look at PFI, but perhaps value-for-money issues were best left to the finance and audit committees. 'We need to deliver something early on... rather than tackling the broad umbrella of PFI,' she pleaded.

Scottish health unions and managers remain enthusiastic about the new Parliament. In fact, they may be keener than before it was set up. Unison senior regional officer Jim Devine says the Parliament 'had a bad press when it looked as if it was not doing anything but discussing pay and holidays'.

But he argues that this was 'just a settling-in period' and the Parliament was always going to take more time to get into its stride than the Welsh Assembly because its responsibilities are bigger.

Pat Frost, director of the NHS Confederation in Scotland, makes almost exactly the same point. 'I do not think it was a slow start, because they are having to set up Scottish versions of the entire Westminster system and because health is fully devolved, and there are no links.'

Ms Frost maintains that she had to be 'restrained from standing up and cheering' during the health and social care committee's first debate.

Under the noise about PFI, she says, members stressed the need to tackle ill-health, recognised links between ill-health, unemployment and housing, and 'understood that there was an issue in the health service about having to prioritise and make choices'. When it comes to the crunch, she believes that health boards will be supported in making such choices.

'I cannot begin to describe how different the political scene is here,' says Ms Frost.

'We have 200 years to catch up and tensions are very, very obvious. It is very hot politically, but people are determined to work together. It was palpable in that room.'

Mr Devine is almost contemptuous of suggestions that things could be otherwise. 'You will still get political arguments, but the only way to make this work is consensus, if only because there is only a limited budget,' he says.

'There is only so far you can go by moving emergency motions and calling for motherhood and apple pie. People will quickly get sick of parties saying 'we want this and this and this' if there is no money available. Any party that did that is going to look pretty silly.'

Meanwhile in Wales, John Jenkins, parliamentary officer for the British Medical Association, thinks the health and social services committee has 'got off to a flying start' and commends Ms Hutt and Ms Williams for their openness and willingness to meet people.

Richard Thomas, director of the NHS Confederation in Wales, feels the committee has 'hit the ground running' and 'seems willing to tackle issues head-on'.

But after four meetings the health and social services committee has yet to make a decision, and commentators suggest that 'consensus' may be harder to maintain when that point is reached. 'It is going to be a bloodbath,' one predicts.

Particularly 'hard decisions' will have to be made about finances. The 'stocktake' that reported last month found that health authorities and trusts have a total deficit of£72m - and the subtext of its report was that hospitals would have to close to deal with the problem.

Yet when the Welsh Mirror suggested that Llanelli Hospital would close, the idea met with a swift rebuttal from Assembly first minister Alun Michael.

And health and social services committee member Helen Mary Jones reportedly said it would shut 'over her dead body'.

This suggests managers may not get support for the 'hard choices' Assembly members say they know are needed.

Former Welsh chief medical officer Dame Diedre Hine is conducting a review of acute services in Wales. It is likely to keep the health and social services committee busy when it reports in September or October.