The government's high-profile pledges on extra cash for the NHS will not be enough to achieve 'the high, modern healthcare standards' found in the rest of Europe.
That is the stark conclusion of a special report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants into health funding across the European Union.
But its author, Tom Jones, claims that the extra resources promised by Labour could be used to improve quality, with managers focusing on the NHS's 'acknowledged' talents for achieving efficiency - particularly through the work of the growing number of primary care trusts.
His report claims the gaps between Britain and countries with high-level health funding remain 'considerable'.
It says: 'The money available to the NHS is not enough for the real resources needed - doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals and hospital beds - to achieve the high, modern standards found elsewhere in the EU.'
But it argues that improvements over and above the real-terms growth promised for health service spending can be achieved over the next three years by building on the NHS's 'excellent record of cost control'.
It adds: 'This can be managed by a constructive working alliance between healthcare and finance professionals in the NHS with a focused goal for each trust - to achieve an increase in quality of more than 6.1 per cent each year to 2004, and thus exceed the realterms growth in resources of 6.1 per cent. This can be developed, designed and delivered by each primary care trust in its commissioning and providing role.'
The recommendations come as the Office of Health Economics revealed that in 1998 the UK devoted 6.7 per cent of its GDP to health, compared with 13.6 per cent in the US, 10.6 per cent in Germany and 9.6 per cent in France.
Health and Healthcare in the EU: a financial perspective.The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, 020-7396 7000.
Compendium of Health Statistics. Office of Health Economics.0207-930 9203.£340.