The aftermath of this years winter pressures on the NHS has been felt by politicians in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as in England.

Welsh health secretary Jane Hutt has set up a task force to improve the management of NHS pressures following an urgent meeting with health authorities, trusts and local government representatives.

But Plaid Cymru health spokesman Dr Dai Lloyd said: It seems that every time there is any sort of crisis in Wales, we set up a taskforce. It should not be a substitute for action now.

The taskforce will report this summer. Dr Lloyd pointed out this would be too late to influence the 2000-01 health budget for Wales, which will be finalised over the next few weeks.

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association in Wales said the taskforce was a late reaction to a crisis which Ms Hutt had denied. She said, crisis, what crisis? and was pilloried. Obviously.

Scottish health minister Susan Deacon has denied that strain on the NHS amounts to a crisis and looks set to refuse calls to establish a winter pressures working group.

A Scottish Executive spokesperson said no re-think on strategy was needed because this years plan had worked well, despite calls for a review by the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing and the Scottish Pharmaceutical Federation .

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Kay Ullrich was disgusted by the ministers arrogance and complacency, adding: Its time she listened to real doctors, instead of spin doctors.

A BMA spokesperson said: The root cause of these problems is underfunding of the health service by successive governments. The financial health of trusts is very poor.

In marked contrast to her Scottish counterpart, Northern Ireland health minister Bairbre de Brun rushed to review the management of winter pressures.

She also came up with an extra£3.3m to meet the exceptional demands on the service as part of a£6.3m package,£2.5m of which was found from savings in other departments.

The ministers response was welcomed by the service, but did not dispel the fear that this years crisis is bound to be repeated.

The£3.3m is a one-off. What's needed is a recurring increase, said Norman Bennett, director of finance at the Royal Hospitals trust in Belfast.

The Royal is facing a deficit of between£5m and£6m - double last years figure.

Mr Bennett said help with winter pressures was not enough to resolve chronic problem of escalating costs and nursing shortages.