The Scottish Conservative Party is likely to take a softer line on expanding the private healthcare sector than its English counterpart.

In an interview with HSJ , health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said she would 'always want the NHS to be at the forefront in the delivery of healthcare'.

She also said she would not like to see 'some parts of healthcare transferred over to the private sector with other sections remaining within the NHS'.

In England, the Conservative Party has been pushing its patient's guarantee policy to develop maximum waiting times for NHS treatment.

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox has said this could be 'something of a Trojan Horse' to encourage the private insurance industry to provide new and cheaper products for less serious conditions.

His health spokesman, Philip Hammond, said this would mean people looking to the NHS 'for their serious and life-threatening conditions' but turning to private insurance, ifthey had it, for conditions 'where the NHS has to ask them to wait a little bit longer'.

But Mrs Scanlon said: 'The private sector can have a part to play in terms of utilising spare capacity to reduce waiting lists, as does occur at private hospitals like HealthCare International in Clydebank, but as a general principle I don't believe that this is the way forward.'

Mrs Scanlon told the Scottish Parliament in June that the Scottish Conservatives had held meetings with party leader William Hague 'and he has kindly said that we are free to set our own policies on health'.

Scotland is widely perceived to retain more widespread support for public services than England.

Scottish Conservatives are also calling for 'full implementation' of the Sutherland report on long-term care.

In its NHS plan for England, the government announced it would not be implementing the report's key call for all 'personal care' to be free, wherever it was delivered. It said 'nursing care' would be free. In response, Mr Hague only asked where the boundaries between the two lay.

But Mrs Scanlon said: 'To leave nursing care to the discretion of nurses is not prescriptive enough.We are committed to introducing the Sutherland report in Scotland in full.'

Mrs Scanlon said devolution was bound to produce differences between the four UK health services, and called for the Scottish version of the NHS plan to 'be a clear vision for the delivery of healthcare determined by need and without discrepancies as a result of where you live'.

But she argued that this would need a major change of attitude. 'I don't believe there is the compassion in the health service that is needed to deliver this.

'I think there is also a lack of responsibility at all levels which needs to be encouraged. The increasing centralisation of the service is also producing a lack of coherent strategy.

'These are all issues I believe the national plan for Scotland should address and must address if we are to have the service we deserve in the future.'

Scottish health minister Susan Deacon is due to deliver a Scottish version of the NHS plan in the autumn.