UK healthcare ‘lagging behind other rich nations’
4 November 2015
Standards of healthcare in the UK are lagging behind many developed nations with thousands fewer doctors and nurses being employed, a report says.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development review of 34 countries found the UK was behind in key areas such as stroke and cancer.
It also found spending was lower per head and there was less equipment.
The Department of Health said there was room for improvement and money was being targeted in those areas.
The report found the UK has 8.2 nurses per 1,000 people compared with an OECD average of 9.1, while it has 2.8 doctors per 1,000 compared with 3.3.
Experts said 26,500 more doctors and 47,700 nurses would be needed to match the OECD average.
In terms of equipment, the number of MRI and CT scanners was well below average.
Spending, it said, had seen “zero growth” per person in real terms between 2009 and 2013.
Countries such as France, Canada, Belgium, Germany, New Zealand and Denmark were all spending more.
The report, which also took into account the private sector for some measures, highlighted lower rates for survival for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer.
Levels of hospital admission for stroke and respiratory illness were also higher.
But the report also found evidence that Britons were leading unhealthy lives.
Obesity rates were among the highest, while alcohol consumption and smoking rates were also above average.
But the UK did perform well in terms of waiting times for key treatments and ensuring everybody had access to services.
Mark Pearson of the OECD said: “The UK is world leader in developing innovative approaches to healthcare but often does not do the basic things very well.
“While access to care in the UK is good, the quality of care is uneven and continues to lag behind that in many other OECD countries.”
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust think tank, said: “For the UK, the message seems to be that where healthcare is concerned, you get what you pay for.
“Our lower-than-average level of public investment in healthcare is mirrored by our somewhat mediocre performance across the board.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the extra investment being made in the NHS this Parliament would help improve services.
“We know there are areas where the NHS can improve which is why we have prioritised investment in the front line.”
But she added: “The OECD report shows there are many indicators where the NHS continues to be the envy of the world.”