Does the NHS provide worse care than health systems in comparable countries?
Although the NHS saves patients from financial hardship it has a poorer record for saving lives from some diseases compared to other similar countries.
How good is the NHS?, a report by the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the King’s Fund think-tanks, compares the UK system to 18 other developed countries, including France, Germany, Japan and the USA.
The report found the NHS was below average in treating eight of the 12 most common causes of death. These include deaths within 30 days of a heart attack and within five years of diagnosis of breast, rectal, colon, pancreatic and lung cancer. The report states, however, that improvement has been made in recent years.
It also said the NHS has fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds and computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners than other countries. The UK also spends slightly less than the average of national income on healthcare. It has higher rates of perinatal and neonatal deaths. And the NHS came third for the overall rate at which people die when successful medical care could have saved their lives.
On the plus side the report found the NHS to be quite efficient with 84% of generic prescribing compared to the average of 50%.
It also provides ‘unusually good’ financial protection from the consequences of ill health, with the lowest rate of people who skip medication because of cost.
It is also good at managing some long-term conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease.