NHS knocked off world's best healthcare system spot and slips down the ranks

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The American think tank, Commonwealth Fund, found that Norway, the Netherlands, and Australia out-performed the NHS when it came to patient access and patient care. England’s healthcare system has dropped to fourth place, in a survey of 11 wealthy countries. Worryingly, the NHS only came ninth place in a comparison of healthcare outcomes, which included early deaths, cancer survival, and stillbirths.

The coronavirus pandemic put huge pressure on the NHS, as the demand for services outstripped supply.

As hundreds and hundreds of people flooded the intensive care units (ICUs) across the country – caused by the notorious virus – the backlog for other service grew.

The number of people in England now waiting to start routine hospital treatment rose to a new record high of 5.1 million people.

In July, the care watchdog warned that “exceptional” pressures on the NHS was impacting the quality of care that patients received.

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In the think tank report, it was noted that the UK’s drop in rank from first to fourth place “is associated with the country’s lower performance on several domains”.

Global healthcare systems were compared on a number of factors, including:

  • Access to care
  • Care process
  • Administrative efficiency
  • Equality and health care outcomes.

“Access to care includes measures of healthcare’s affordability and timeliness,” the report stated.

“The Netherlands performs best on this performance domain among the 11 countries, ranking at or near the top in both subdomains.”

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The report continued: “Norway and Germany also performed well on access to care, but all three are outranked on affordability by the UK.”

While America spends far more of its gross domestic product on healthcare than Norway, the Netherlands, and Australia, the US scored bottom of the ranks – except for care process.

Siva Anandaciva – chief analyst at the King’s Fund, a UK health think tank – commented on the findings.

“According to this report, our previously world-beating health service is at risk of moving to the middle of the pack.”

Anandaciva pointed out such a downward move was “largely due to growing delays across the system in people’s ability to access care quickly”.

“We can’t brush this under the carpet as being solely a consequence of the impact of the pandemic on patients, staff and services,” he cautioned.

“Even before Covid, waiting lists for treatment were already sizeable after a decade of stalling funding and a growing workforce crisis.”

Four features that distinguish top-performing countries:

  1. They provide for universal coverage and remove cost barriers
  2. They invest in primary care systems to ensure that high-value services are equitably available in all communities to all people
  3. They reduce administrative burdens that divert time, efforts and spending away from health improvement
  4. They invest in social services, especially for children and working-age adults.

The NHS

The NHS Providers stated England’s healthcare system supports 55 million citizens with free care when needed.

However, as the over-85s population has increased by almost a third since 2005, and the demand for services is skyrocketing; this age brackets is set to double in the next 20 years.

In addition, the prevalence of long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure are also on the increase.

Frontline services are under extreme “pressure” and the strain on the NHS workforce is mounting.



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