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Lack of data means it is almost impossible to compare health systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland since devolution, research has concluded.

Academics from the King's Fund and the London School of Economics said they were 'astonished' that despite the vast sums of money invested in each country, 'valid comparable basic statistics' were not available.

Author Professor Gwyn Bevan, professor of management science at the LSE, said: 'The fundamental starting points just aren't there. As the countries do things differently, it's more important to be able to make the comparisons.'

From the small amount of data available, the research, published in this week's BMJ, found there was 'no suggestion' that more money invested between 1996/7 and 2002/3 had led to better health.

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