NHS: UK ranks first in global healthcare report

UK beats ten high-income countries for quality of healthcare, access to care and efficiency

NHS hospital
The NHS ‘winter crisis’ fuelled the need for more beds
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Britain's healthcare system is the best in the world, according to a study of 11 high-income nations carried out by an American foundation.

Of the countries included in the Commonwealth Fund report – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US – the UK's healthcare system was deemed the second cheapest and the best performing.

The report looked at five main areas, including quality of healthcare, efficiency, access to care, equity and healthy lives. The UK came top for quality of care, access to care and efficiency, and third for timeliness of care, behind Switzerland and the Netherlands.

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But it came close to the bottom of the table for 'healthy lives', which takes into account infant mortality, healthy life expectancy at age 60 and the number of deaths considered avoidable with medical intervention.

Only the US, which came last in the overall rankings, scored worse than the UK in this category. France ranked highest, followed by Sweden and Switzerland.

The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation based in the US, used data from the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as its own international surveys of patients and doctors about medical practices and views of their country's health systems.

While the authors said there was "room for improvement" for all countries, they were particularly critical of healthcare in the US. Not only did it come at the bottom of the table, the other ten countries spent "considerably less" on healthcare per person and as a percentage of gross domestic product than the US, they said. "These findings indicate that, from the perspectives of both physicians and patients, the US healthcare system could do much better in achieving value for the nation's substantial investment in health," said the authors.

The UK has ranked in the top three countries surveyed intermittently by the Commonwealth over the last ten years. It took first place in 2007 but slipped to second in 2010, behind the Netherlands.

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