Secretary of state for Scotland Donald Dewar announced an investment programme of pounds1.8bn over three years to create the 'most modern health service in Europe' while tackling waiting lists and rising demand.

The programme includes pounds300m in 1999-2000 to reduce the overall number of people on waiting lists to '75,000 or less' by the end of the parliament.

A pounds40m 'walk-in-walk-out' treatment centre in Glasgow, which will pilot one-day diagnosis and treatment for minor conditions such as cataracts and varicose veins, will be built, while pounds24m will go on premises and equipment for primary care trusts.

Capital spending is to rise by 14.7 per cent in 1999-2000. Scottish health minister Sam Galbraith said the capital investment would 'change the face of the NHS in Scotland'.

Cash will also go on technology, including 'one stop clinics' where patients can receive all the tests they need in a single visit, and airline-type 'instant' booking systems for hospital appointments.

The NHS in Wales is to get an additional pounds1bn over the next three years - although it will make no detailed decisions until later this year on how the extra cash will be spent.

The headline sum comprises pounds175m in 1999-2000, and pounds345m and pounds510m in successive years. There is as yet no breakdown of capital and revenue within these figures.

The Welsh Office plans to consult with NHS professionals, health authorities and trusts, the public, and local authorities in September before it makes detailed allocations.

The established broad priorities for health include cutting waiting lists, abolishing the internal market developing health purchasing, reducing bureaucracy, better health promotion and tackling health inequalities.

Health and social services in Northern Ireland will also have to wait to find out how much of the additional pounds1.4bn over three years for public services in the province will be earmarked for them.

Precise allocations will not be announced until the autumn following consultations between the Northern Ireland Office and the new Northern Ireland Assembly.

However, it is clear that cash will be made available to reduce waiting lists by 7,000 by next April, boost resources for community health services, promote healthier lifestyles, and reduce premature deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer.