A EUROPE-WIDE study which claims Scotland's extra spend on healthcare was making little difference to the performance of the NHS has been branded "deeply flawed".

Scottish ministers also accused the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) of being "based on dubious data at best" and draws on 12-year-old news reports.

The Herald reported yesterday the EHCI ranked Scotland 13th in the league table, with England 14th. The EHCI scores patient care in 35 countries, including in eastern and central Europe, against 48 different criteria ranging from waiting times for treatment to levels of superbug infection to the number of infant deaths.

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The Netherlands topped the index with 870 points out of a possible total of 1000, while NHS Scotland was awarded 719 and NHS England 718.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the NHS in Scotland was benefiting from moves to protect its budgets. He added: "This is in stark contrast to the UK Government's actions south of the Border, where the coalition's programme of privatisation in NHS England is growing ever-more pronounced and damaging.

"Waiting times are at among their lowest-ever levels, care is safer than it has ever been, levels of premature mortality have been further reduced, and patients continue to rate their care very positively.

"The NHS in Scotland is continuing to perform well and lead the way in comparison to the rest of the UK. For example, while the median wait for bypass surgery is 37 days in Scotland, its 56 days in England and 135 days in Wales. The OECD have also stated earlier this year that in terms of waiting times in Scotland were performing well in comparison with other countries of the United Kingdom."

Professor Jason Leitch, clinical director of NHS Scotland, also questioned the validity of the EHCI.