A damning report on the state of health services in countries across the world has shown the National Health Service to be well behind other wealthy countries.
Research by the Economist Intelligence Unit showed the UK has fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds and medical equipment, leaving it sitting at 28th out of 30th in the results table, the Telegraph reports.
The NHS was compared with 29 other health services in countries who make up the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s top 30, with the report’s authors calling the results “worrying”.
It highlighted staffing figures as a major area of concern, with just 2.8 doctors per 10,000 population compared with an average of 3.2 amongst the other OECD countries. And the UK also suffers from a lower nurse to patient ratio than other countries, with 8.2 per 10,000 compared to the average of 8.9.
Hospital bed numbers fared no better, with only 2.8 per 1000 population much lower than the average of 4.8 in the other countries measured.
The report pointed to the links between the shortage of nurses and the Mid Staffs hospital scandal which saw hundreds of patients die while in the care of the hospital.
The report has been seized on by left-wing groups who have used the findings to say that more money must be put into the NHS. But that criticism conveniently ignores the role that health insurance plays in the provision of care in many of the other countries which allow a career in all areas of medicine to have salaries at competitive market rates as well as requiring efficiency to play a role in the provision of funding and charges.
This is evident when looking at the equipment ratio per head in the UK, with computerised tomography (CT) scanners and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units found in significantly lower numbers in NHS facilities. Such equipment is vital in the diagnosis of patients particularly those with cancers, where mortality rates in Britain are higher than the OECD average.
Only two countries – Israel and Turkey – were ranked worse for “resources” in the findings with authors saying the NHS was “very stretched” and will inevitably struggle further as the population continues to age.
Yet using 2011 data, British GPs are the best paid in the sample countries, with self-employed practitioners earning 3.6 times the average wage, despite not having to work evenings and weekends.
Despite health expenditure per capital in England rising from £1.712 in 2008/09 to £1,912 in 2012/13 Britain only scored a “mediocre” 19th out of 30 for population health, which considers life expectancy and the impact of disability and disease on wellbeing. In Japan, life expectancy is four years greater than in the UK.
With NHS net expenditure increased from £64.173 billion in 2003/04 to £109.721bn in 2013/14 and planned expenditure for 2014/15 is £113.035bn the results should open up a debate on the future of the NHS in England and Wales and what it is able to provide.
However the initial response has been to call for more money for Britain’s ultimate sacred cow, with author Ana Nicholls saying, “”A tight government budget will make it hard for politicians to fulfil their promises of extra funding, but resourcing will only become a bigger issue as the population ages.”
And Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing urged the next government to increase NHS spending substantially.
“This thorough report spells out what has been painfully clear to frontline staff for some time: the UK health service desperately needs more resources, more equipment, and more staff.”