The National Health Service has been praised as the world’s best healthcare system by an international panel of experts. The panel found the UK’s health service was superior to those found in countries which spend far more on health.
The report was produced by the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington-based foundation that is respected around the world for its analysis of the performance of the health systems of different countries. It examined 11 countries, including detailed data from patients, doctors and the World Health Organisation.
Researchers concluded that the United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency. Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the NHS, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 countries. The NHS spends just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less.
In the Commonwealth Fund study, the UK came first out of the 11 countries in eight of the 11 measures of care the authors looked at. It came top on measures including providing effective care, safe care, co-ordinated care and patient-centred care. The fund also rated the NHS as the best for giving access to care and for efficient use of resources.
The only serious criticism of the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive. On a composite “healthy lives” score, which includes deaths among infants and patients who would have survived had they received timely and effective healthcare, the UK came 10th. The authors say that the NHS cannot be solely blamed for this issue, which is strongly influenced by social and economic factors. Although the NHS came third overall for the timeliness of care, its “short waiting times” were praised.
“There is a frequent misconception that trade-offs between universal coverage and timely access to specialised services are inevitable. However, the Netherlands, UK and Germany provide universal coverage with low out-of-pocket costs while maintaining quick access to speciality services,” the report added.
The report found the NHS also outperforms the other countries in managing the care of people who are chronically ill.