Theme and variations: putting Scotland and Wales in the picture The pictures in Labour's Welsh and Scottish manifestos may be the same as those in the English ones - but there are subtle differences in the text.
Partly, it is a matter of respecting the different constitutional bodies, partly, it is tailoring the party's message to its audience.But there are also some real differences in policy.
English and Welsh babies, for example, will have to forego the benefit of free toothbrushes and toothpaste that their Scottish counterparts will enjoy (presumably Scottish babies spring from the womb complete with incisors), while Welsh NHS employees seem to miss out entirely on the University of the NHS.
Both Scotland and Wales have different waiting targets.In Wales there is a promise to work 'to reduce waiting times in Wales for elective treatment', whereas Scotland gets a promise of maximum waiting lists of nine months (down from 12) by 2003.Scotland will get electronic booking systems earlier than England - 2003 rather than 2005 - which suggests that England may be able to learn from the Scottish experience.
There are some major shifts of power within the NHS in each manifesto, although they are not startlingly new.In Wales, there is a promise to abolish health authorities and give responsibility for strategic direction to the National Assembly.By 2004, all local care will be organised by local health groups.Community health councils will be 'reformed to strengthen their roles as patient watchdogs', which presumably is a step up from abolition.
In Scotland, local healthcare co-operatives will be 'developed'and 15 unified health boards set up.'Walk-in, walk-out'hospitals will also be in place by as early as next year - Labour in England gives no date for its proposed fast-track units but links them to waiting-list targets which do not have to be achieved until 2005.Again, if Scotland is in the forefront of this there will be ample opportunities for mistakes and successes to be analysed before the experience is repeated elsewhere.