Health outcomes of Britain's $230 billion nationalized health care system, which is free-at-point-of-use, have fallen behind the systems of most other advanced economies by almost every measure, according to a new study out Monday. File Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE
June 26 (UPI) -- Britain's underperforming National Health Service is likely to blame for avoidable deaths from treatable conditions such as cancer, heart attack and strokes with knock-on effects on life expectancy, a new study out Monday shows.
The free-at-point-of-use NHS does well at shielding people from the financial impacts of illness, but it has fewer key resources than other advanced economies and lags behind its European neighbors as well as Canada and New Zealand on important healthcare outcomes, including life expectancy and deaths, according to the report from the King's Fund.
Britain had the second highest death rate from treatable conditions, after the United States, with the study finding deaths and reduced life expectancy could have been avoided by delivering healthcare in a timely and effective way and a greater focus on public health and prevention.
Britain's per capita health spending was below average compared with peer countries and lags behind on capital investment with fewer beds and four times fewer CT and MRI scanners than peers such as Germany.
"The U.K. has strikingly low levels of key clinical staff, including doctors and nurses, and is heavily reliant on foreign-trained staff. Remuneration for some clinical staff groups also appears to be less competitive," says the study.
"It performs relatively well on some measures of efficiency but waiting times for common procedures were 'middle-of-the-pack' before the COVID-19 pandemic and have deteriorated sharply since.
"But the U.K. performs noticeably less well than its peers -- and is more of a laggard than a leader -- on many important measures of health status and health care outcomes."
These included health outcomes that can be "heavily affected by the actions of a health system," such as surviving cancer and treatable mortality, and outcomes like life expectancy.
On the plus side, the NHS scores quite highly in areas such as the level at which cheaper generic medicines are prescribed and spending just 2% of its $230 billion budget on administration.
Report author Siva Anandaciva said there was little evidence that any one type of healthcare system or funding model yielded better results than another with nations mostly working toward better outcomes by improving their existing systems, rather than adopting drastically different models.
Anandaciva recommended instead greater focus on outcomes -- including financial protection and health care outcomes -- that countries achieve and how they achieve them.
"It is clearly helpful to know if the U.K. has far fewer staff, beds and equipment than other countries because these resources are fundamental to delivering timely and effective health care for a population."
But rather than getting bogged down in political wrangling over health spending, outcomes and how they are achieved should be the sole focus, Anandaciva argues.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the NHS was one of the world's best-run healthcare systems.
"This report recognizes the NHS is one of the most efficiently run healthcare systems and we are investing up to $18 billion to improve services and cut waiting lists, one of the government's top five priorities," said a DHSC spokesman
He said the extra funding was being used for new hires and the construction of diagnostic centers in the community.
In a statement announcing a national targeted lung cancer screening program ahead of the report's release, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the nation must look to "tackle some of the long-term challenging facing the NHS."
"As we approach the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS, I want to ensure that it continues to thrive for the next 75 years and beyond," he said.