An analysis of differences between the UK's four health services has revealed wide variations in costs and waiting times.

The Office of National Statistics report, based on 2006-07 data, found health and social care spending per head ranged from£1,915 in England to£2,313 in Scotland.

Waits for common operations varied widely, with 90 per cent of cataract surgery patients admitted within 116 days in England compared with 172 days in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland 90 per cent of hip replacement patients were admitted within 221 days. In Wales it was 367 days. All countries had cut waiting times compared with previous years.

Scotland had the lowest life expectancy at birth, and Northern Ireland the highest rate of hospital inpatient admissions.