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NHS is 'worse than healthcare in Ireland, Spain and Slovenia' in new global ranking

The Independent logo The Independent 19/05/2017 Katie Forster

© Provided by Independent Print Limited 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.

RankingCountryHAQI
1Andorra95
2Iceland94
3Switzerland92
4Sweden90
5Norway90
6Australia90
7Finland90
8Spain90
9Netherlands90
10Luxembourg89
11Japan89
12Italy89
13Ireland88
14Austria88
15France88
16Belgium88
17Canada88
18Slovenia87
19Greece87
20Germany86
21Singapore86
22New Zealand86
23South Korea86
24Denmark86
25Israel86
26Cyprus85
27Qatar85
28Malta85
29Czech Republic85
30UK85
31Portugal85
32Kuwait82
33Croatia82
34Estonia81
35USA81
36Montenegro81
37Lebanon80
38Hungary80
39Poland80
40Saudi Arabia79

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.

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).

Watch: Voices from the heart of the NHS crisis (by Sky News)


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