NHS is ‘worse than healthcare in Ireland, Spain and Slovenia’ in new global ranking – The Independent
Britain’s healthcare system has been ranked just 30th in a new global study – lagging behind other European countries including Germany, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and Italy.
A report published in The Lancet medical journal rates 192 countries in terms of their quality and access to healthcare.
The UK scored a total of 84.6 out of 100, placing it on an equal footing with Cyprus, Qatar, Malta, Portugal and the Czech Republic – with an especially low score for cancer care.
Tiny tax haven Andorra was the top-ranking country with a score of 94.6, while at the bottom of the table, with just 29, was the Central African Republic.
Experts analysed data on death rates over the last 25 years from each country to draw up the list which they called the Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) Index.
They found that globally, the quality of healthcare has improved from an average score of 40.7 in 1990 to 53.7 in 2015.
The UK’s score also improved from 74.3 in 1990 to its current level, but Britain is still underperforming in relation to its level of development, according to Professor Martin McKee, who co-led the study.
“The UK has made consistent progress since 1990, but with a score of 85, it now lags behind many of its European neighbours, including Finland, Sweden, Spain and Italy, all of which have health systems very similar to the British NHS and so are most directly comparable,” said Professor McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
“The gap between what the UK achieves and what it would be expected to, given its level of development, is also wider than in other western European countries.”
The news comes the day after health experts called Conservative plans to give the NHS a £8bn funding boost “deeply disappointing,” saying it will not go far enough to deliver the improvements the health service needs.
A recent poll for The Independent found three in four people believe the NHS is in a bad condition, with 51 per cent of people saying the Tories bear the most responsibility for the current problems facing the NHS.
The UK’s health care performance score was better than that of the US, which was awarded 81.3 points, putting it in 35th place.
The HAQ index was based on numbers of deaths from 32 causes that could be avoided by “timely and effective” medical care, with a breakdown of each country’s performance on specific causes of death.
The UK achieved a top score of 100 for treating common vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and measles.
It also earned a high score of 88 for treating cerebrovascular disease, conditions such as strokes caused by problems affecting the brain’s blood supply.
Professor McKee said this was probably due to the quality of general practice, leading to the early detection and treatment of blood pressure and better management of stroke.
However Britain performed poorly in other categories which included some cancers, an outcome blamed on lack of investment in specialist care. It scored just 58 for the blood cell cancer Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 64 for lower respiratory infections.
US lead author Dr Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “What we have found about health care access and quality is disturbing.
“Having a strong economy does not guarantee good health care. Having great medical technology doesn’t either. We know this because people are not getting the care that should be expected for diseases with established treatments.”
As examples, he pointed to Norway and Australia, which each scored a high-ranking 90 overall. Yet Norway scored 65 for its treatment of testicular cancer, while Australia was awarded just 52 points for non-melanoma skin cancer.
“In the majority of cases, both of these cancers can be treated effectively,” said Dr Murray. “Shouldn’t it cause serious concern that people are dying of these causes in countries that have the resources to address them?”
From 1990 to 2015, the gap between the best and worst-performing countries grew by almost five points, the study showed.
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
“We acknowledge that there are pressures on the health service, there are always extra pressures on the NHS in the winter, but we have the added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex needs of the population,” Theresa May has said.
Waits of over 12 hours in A&E among elderly people have more than doubled in two years, according to figures from NHS Digital.
Patients going to A&E instead of seeing their GPs
Jeremy Hunt has called for a “honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments”, saying that around a third of A&E patients were in hospital unnecessarily.
Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme the NHS now had more doctors, nurses and funding than ever, but explained what he called “very serious problems at some hospitals” by suggesting pressures were increasing in part because people are going to A&Es when they should not.
He urged patients to visit their GP for non-emergency illnesses, outlined plans to release time for family doctors to support urgent care work, and said the NHS will soon be able to deliver seven-day access to a GP from 8am to 8pm.
But doctors struggling amid a GP recruitment crisis said Mr Hunt’s plans were unrealistic and demanded the Government commit to investing in all areas of the overstretched health service.
Simon Stevens, head of NHS England
Reports that “key members” of Ms May’s team used internal meetings to accuse Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, of being unenthusiastic and unresponsive have been rejected by Downing Street.
Mr Stevens had allegedly rejected claims made by Ms May that the NHS had been given more funding than required.
Previous health policy, not funding
In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Ms May acknowledged the NHS faced pressures but said it was a problem that had been “ducked by government over the years”.
She refuted the claim that hospitals were tackling a “humanitarian crisis” and said health funding was at record levels.
“We asked the NHS a while back to set out what it needed over the next five years in terms of its plan for the future and the funding that it would need,” said the Prime Minister.
“They did that, we gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required… Funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.”
But doctors accused Ms May of being “in denial” about how the lack of additional funding provided for health and social care were behind a spiralling crisis in NHS hospitals.
Target to treat all A&E patients within four hours
Mr Hunt was accused of watering down the flagship target to treat all A&E patients within four hours.
The Health Secretary told MPs the promise – introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 – should only be for “those who actually need it”.
Amid jeers in the Commons, Mr Hunt said only four other countries pledged to treat all patients within a similar timeframe and all had “less stringent” rules.
But Ms May has now said the Government will stand by the four-hour target for A&E, which says 95 per cent of patients must be dealt with within that time frame.
Mr Hunt was accused of “hiding” from the public eye following news of the Red Cross’s comments and didn’t make an official statement for two days.
He was also filmed refusing to answer questions from journalists who pursued him down the street yesterday to ask whether he planned to scrap the four-hour A&E waiting time target.
Sky News reporter Beth Rigby pressed the Health Secretary on his position on the matter, saying “the public will want to know, Mr Hunt”.
“Sorry Beth, I’ve answered questions about this already,” replied Mr Hunt.
“But you didn’t answer questions on this. You said it was over-interpreted in the House of Commons and you didn’t want to water it down. Is that what you’re saying?” said Ms Rigby.
“It’s very difficult, because how are we going to explain to the public what your intention is, when you change your position and then won’t answer the question, Mr Hunt”. But the Health Secretary maintained his silence until he reached his car and got in.
Overall in 2015, western European countries scored the highest and those in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania the lowest.
Cape Verde bucked the African trend by finding a place in the middle of the table.
South Korea, Turkey, Peru, China and the Maldives saw some of the greatest improvements in health care access and quality since the 1990s, said the researchers.
The top five performers were Andorra (94.6), Iceland (93.6), Switzerland (91.8), Sweden (90.5), and Norway (90.5).