Scottish health minister Susan Deacon looks set to overrule MSPs in a clash over a major reform of the way NHS funds are shared out.

Ms Deacon has said she is prepared to push through the Arbuthnott report, which recommends reorganising resource allocation according to health need rather than population size, without the agreement of the health committee.

Ms Deacon's spokesperson said: 'The committee's opinions are part of the consultation process which the minister will take on board, but only one element, and she can approve this legislation whatever the committee has said.'

In a statement, the health committee said work 'needs still to be done' on the report, ordered by former Scottish health minister Sam Galbraith.

It criticised the methodology of Sir John Arbuthnott's report, Fair Shares for All , and spoke of a 'lack of confidence' in how it would distribute funds between health boards, fearing that it may unfairly penalise some community services.

MSPs said implementation should be postponed. The report should be examined again next September with possible implementation delayed until 2003 or 2004, they said.

Sir John's recommendations include reallocating about£76m of the NHS in Scotland's£4.7bn annual budget, with Glasgow being the principal beneficiary in the process.

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Kay Ullrich accused Ms Deacon of 'putting party politics ahead of the health of the people of Scotland' and said the report 'does not go far enough'.

It was a unanimous cross-party decision to postpone putting the report into practice because 'redistributing just 2 per cent of the existing cake is not doing enough', she said.

Ms Ullrich added: 'None of this is new money, and we believe that if the minister thinks she can just push this through, then that is something we will be very disappointed with.'

Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon also attacked the minister's stance.

'I think the minister would do well to take another look at the committee's report. This minister seems to be having great difficulty in working in partnership with the committee or anyone who crosses her.

'She would be given much more recognition and respect if she worked with the committee in partnership, ' Ms Scanlon said.