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Economist league table places NHS near bottom for resources; near top for access

The NHS has a “basic resourcing problem” that must be addressed by the next UK government, warns a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). In the report, the UK is compared with 29 other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries on a number of healthcare measures such as spending, disease outcomes and equity of access.

The EIU places the UK in 16th position for healthcare spending per head. But it is 28th out of 30 when it comes to resourcing. There are 2.8 doctors and 8.2 nurses per 10,000 people, compared with an OECD average of 3.2 and 8.9, respectively. Hospital beds are at an even lower level comparatively, with just 2.8 per 1,000 people compared with an average of 4.8.

In the run up to the general election, political parties have promised extra funding for the NHS. The EIU urges the next government not to spend this money on further organisational reform. “New tasks, targets and structures could end up becoming a further distraction for NHS staff and managers and for policy-makers, at a time when the real need is for greater focus on the basic standard of care,” the report says.

On the measure of equity and access, the UK fares better, coming third out of 30 countries. This reflects the policy of the NHS being “free at the point of use”. The UK also does well on certain disease outcomes, in particular diabetes. The disease is far less prevalent in the UK than in countries such as Japan, Germany and France.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068508

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