SCOTLAND'S Chief Medical Officer has warned health professionals that the NHS will copy Englishstyle market reforms unless they give their full support to ministers.

Dr Harry Burns, the country's most senior doctor, says Tony Blair's agenda is "scary stuff" that the Scottish Executive may be pressed into adopting.

He said the only way to "stop this happening in Scotland" is to unite behind health minister Andy Kerr's policies.

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Burns's comments were made on Thursday after a lecture by Professor Allyson Pollock on the dangers of privatisation in the NHS. Her speech, which was made at Glasgow University to GPs and other health workers, was followed by Burns making an impassioned defence of Executive policy.

Referring to privatisation in the English NHS, he said: "This is scary stuff. I think we should, as a profession, as a group of professions, get behind what I think we all broadly agree are a set of good proposals in the Kerr report."

Burns said it would be in the NHS's interests for health professionals to back Professor David Kerr's recent report on restructuring the health service. It has already been accepted by the Executive.

The CMO also warned his audience that unless they stopped complaining about the Scottish reform agenda, the Executive would copy the English model.

"If we are constantly sniping from the sidelines and not getting behind our ministers, they'll lose their nerve, " he said.

Burns also claimed the Executive was under pressure from the Government to pursue Blairite policies on foundation hospitals and greater use of the private sector.

"The Prime Minister came to Scotland last year and publicly criticised the Scottish NHS. If that is the public comment, imagine the heat Jack McConnell and Andy Kerr are getting behind the scenes, " he said.

"We can get together and get behind these proposals, behind the ministers, to stop this from happening in Scotland."

Burns's comments reveal the tensions between Blair and McConnell over the perceived lack of progress in improving the Scottish NHS.

The Prime Minister and his aides are known to be frustrated by the First Minister's unwillingness to pursue market-based reforms. They believe the record levels of NHS funding have not been matched by reform in Scotland.

In turn, McConnell feels the English reforms are inappropriate for Scotland and that his ministers are beginning to make progress in cutting waiting times.

A Scottish Executive spokesperson denied that Burns's comments were unhelpful. "The Prime Minister's visit to Scotland last year predated the Chief Medical Officer arriving in post and the PM in fact has publicly supported the Scottish health agenda.

"Our Delivering For Health agenda sets out tough challenges for the Scottish NHS for the next decade.

"Such a major transformation of mindsets and health provision . . . requires the backing of everyone involved. The CMO's comments make that clear."

SNP health spokeswoman Shona Robison said Burns's "revealing" remarks confirmed the tensions between Blair and McConnell, while Scottish Socialist Party health spokeswoman Carolyn Leckie said she was alarmed at the prospect of market reforms in Scotland.

NEED TO KNOW

FACTS The Chief Medical Officer, Harry Burns, has warned doctors in Scotland to back the health service proposals suggested in the recent Kerr Report - or face English-style market reform.

BACKGROUND The path taken by the NHS in Scotland and England have diverged since Tony Blair introduced privatisation to the health service in the south. Market reforms include foundation hospitals and PFI-funded GPs' surgeries. Last month it emerged that a private health care company, UnitedHealth Europe, had been chosen to run a GP's surgery in Derby. It is the first time a large private provider has done so.