The Scottish health service will receive £173m next year from the £300m found for public services in Scotland in the Budget.

Scottish health minister Susan Deacon has also announced that the£26m Scotland will receive from the increased tax on tobacco will be ringfenced for 'the largest investment in health improvement and public health in Scotland's history'.

Vaccination programmes are to be increased and screening programmes extended. Ms Deacon said Scottish public services would receive£300m the year after next, but the proportion to be spent on health would be decided by the Scottish Executive. No figures have been given for subsequent years.

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Kay Ullrich asked whether Scotland's NHS would receive a guaranteed 6.1 per cent increase above inflation over the next four years, as is the case for the UK overall.

The SNP has calculated that£1.1bn would be required to match the increase, since Scottish healthcare spending is already higher than England's. Ms Deacon could not say whether the 6.1 per cent figure would apply. But she said the Executive was committed to making 'real increases in the NHS in Scotland' for which it expected 'real change'.

Dr John Garner, chair of the British Medical Association's Scottish council, welcomed the additional cash, but said: 'Improving Scotland's health, however, does not just need more money. It needs new thinking. It must be a partnership between government, patients and staff to ensure the best possible level of patient care.'

John Conaghan, chief executive of Fife Acute trust, speaking on behalf of the NHS Confederation, said: 'I think we have all been staggered by the size of this additional funding and we aren't yet sure what will be the best way to use it.'

Time is money : Tuesday, 21 March Chancellor Gordon Brown announces the NHS will receive an immediate cash injection of£2bn, and 6.1 per cent above-inflation funding increases for the next four years.

Wednesday, 22 March Prime minister Tony Blair makes a Commons statement on modernising the NHS: 'A step change in resources must mean a step change in reform'.

Five challenges are set for the NHS, with 'dedicated units' to devise solutions and draw up a four-year 'action plan'by July.Mr Blair announces that a new Cabinet committee, chaired by himself, will be set up to monitor improvements by 2003-04.

Thursday, 23 March Health secretary Alan Milburn announces the initial membership of the dedicated units - now called 'modernisation action teams'.A 'patient empowerment'MAT is added to the five units after patient groups complain they are not involved.

Tuesday, 28 March Mr Milburn announces that the first tranche of Budget money -£600m - will be distributed direct to NHS organisations.£60m is kept back to reward top performers.