AN INDEPENDENT commission, which will map out a new future for health and care services in Scotland, will be launched if Labour win back power at Holyrood.

In his speech to the Scottish Labour party conference tomorrow, health spokesman Neil Findlay will promise to set up the wide-ranging review that is being dubbed Beveridge 21 - suggesting it will be the biggest catalyst for reform since the Beveridge report, which paved the way for the creation of the NHS and the welfare state in the 1940s.

The commission, to be set in train from day one of a Scottish Labour government, would consider with the public how the NHS and care services need to change to look after the growing elderly population. It would also discuss what Scotland should do to tackle the poor health entrenched in deprived areas. Any privatisation of the health service would be ruled out from the start.

Outlining the plan, Mr Findlay said he wanted the work of the commission to be "above the party political dog fight" with other parties coming on board to support the process. He continued: "The NHS is the most admired institution that we have and it is teetering on the brink.

"We are very lucky that we have had a very mild winter. If we had not had a mild winter we would have been in crisis. I think the people who are raising the most concerns are the staff who are complaining they cannot deliver the care they have been trained to give."

Last winter Scottish hospitals were overwhelmed amid a rise in respiratory and vomiting bugs, and hundreds of patients had to wait for more than 12 hours in accident and emergency departments because of the shortage of ward beds.

The Herald revealed the College of Emergency Medicine in Scotland had warned the Scottish Government that most A&E departments were regularly unsafe months before the crisis hit and the newspaper launched a campaign calling for a review of NHS and care capacity to help prepare the services to cope with more frail elderly patients.

An SNP spokesman said: "With Johann Lamont's Cuts Commission still to report, people in Scotland will be worried that Neil Findlay's review is just a fig-leaf to allow Labour to follow the lead of their No camp Tory partners and re-introduce prescription charges.

"The SNP has been clear that we are against the tax on ill-health. Labour must reassure people in Scotland that prescription charges are off the tabl"