NHS rated best healthcare system globally, US healthcare worst

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An international panel of experts has declared the NHS the best healthcare system globally and compared it to other countries that spend much more on health care.

The same panel described US healthcare provision as the worst in the world. It found that despite investing the highest funding into health care, American does not offer all patients in need the care they need because they do not have health insurance. It has also been listed as the worst at saving the lives of those who become ill.

The report was published by the Commonwealth Fund, which is a Washington-based foundation respected globally for its analysis of the performance of health systems in different countries. It examined a range of evidence regarding performance of 11 countries, including detailed data from doctors, patients and the World Health Organisation.

The researchers concluded that the UK is ranked first overall and had the highest score for efficiency, access and quality. This is a massive endorsement of the health services, particularly as its expenditure is the second lowest among the 11 countries at £2008 per head, which is less than half the amount of £5017 spent in the US. New Zealand took number one spot for spending the least, at £1876.

The Commonwealth Fund study placed the UK at the top out of the 11 countries, in eight of the 11 care measures that were examined. It received the top position on effective care, co-ordinated care, effective care and patient-centred care. It was also rated the best for efficient use of its resources and access to care.

The most serious black mark against the NHS was the poor record it had for keeping people alive. The UK rested in the tenth spot when it came to the ‘healthy lives’ score. This division includes deaths among patients and infants who would have lived if they had received effective and timely health care. The authors of the report stated that the healthcare system is not fully to blame for this problem, as it is influenced by economic and social factors.

The NHS was placed in third place for timeliness of care, however it received praise for its ‘short waiting times’. The report stated that there is a misperception that there is a trade-off between timely access and universal coverage to specialised service, however, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands offer universal coverage with low costs whilst offering quick access to specialised services.

The report also stated that the NHS outperforms other countries, including Canada, Germany and France when it comes to managing the care of chronically ill patients.

The leader of the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association, Dr Mark Porter, said these findings were clear evidence that the much-maligned healthcare service is indeed one of the top performing systems globally.

He issued warnings that the achievements of the healthcare service has now been placed at risk and stated that there should not be complacency as the service is now facing pressures that may threaten the findings of the Commonwealth Fund. He said that the foundations of the NHS are being undermined by a combination of staff shortages, increasing patient demand and declining funding, along with constant short-term interference from all politicians.

The Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter, stated that he is absolutely thrilled to see the results as it indicates that the NHS is food, despite receiving such low funding compared to other countries.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, stated that NHS staff work very hard to offer care to patients and the results of the research reflect this.

Image Credit: Paul Wilkinson

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