Recent years have witnessed a growing concern in the NHS to devise and implement policies which explicitly recognise that certain client groups and services should receive a higher priority. The paper points to problems arising from the formulation and implementation of the Scottish health priorities documents, drawing where appropriate on related developments in England. Three areas are highlighted for analysis: the policy ambiguity inherent in the documents; problems of collaboration in implementing the policies; and problems posed by central-local relations. The paper concludes that there is a need for a more sophisticated response to the present fiscal squeeze than simply defending the status quo and suggests that the squeeze could provide the necessary stimulus for change.
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