Published: 13/06/2002, Volume II2, No.5809 Page 9

The Scottish Executive is to publish a white paper on health this winter, first minister Jack McConnell has announced.

The document is intended to maximise the effectiveness of the near 50 per cent increase in health investment over the next five years and to ensure that the money is matched by reform.

A spokesperson said the white paper should lead to a less bureaucratic, patient-centred NHS.

But the announcement was greeted with surprise by the service, as no white paper had been expected before the Scottish elections next May. It will also be published some months before an ongoing review of management and decision-making in NHS Scotland, which is supposed to run for a further year.

Institute of Healthcare Management Scottish secretary Donald McNeill said: 'This announcement is hardly consistent with Jack McConnell's own assertion that the aim now was to do less, better.

'We are involved with the review of management and decisionmaking and had hoped it would give the opportunity for mature reflection. But the announcement of a white paper suggests more initiatives rather than concentrating on delivering services.'

Scottish NHS Confederation director Hilary Robertson said:

'Although I am surprised there is to be a white paper, its aims as far as we know them - to streamline the NHS - seem laudable. But we await more detail with interest.'

British Medical Association Scottish secretary Dr Bill O'Neill said: 'We hope the white paper does not cut across the valuable work being done in the review of management and decision-making.We would have some anxiety about that.'

The Scottish Executive spokesperson said: 'It will take forward our objective to modernise and streamline the management and administrative support systems of the NHS to ensure that every possible penny of the health pound is dedicated and delivered to frontline patient services.'