How the NHS compares

Much advertising for private medical insurance knocks the NHS, but is that fair?

An international study of health care in 11 countries, carried out by the Commonwealth Fund, which has found that the UK performs better than most developed countries on patient access, patient safety and doctor-patient relationships.

But what the study does not show is that there are still problems in the NHS that need to be addressed. As the report published by the Patients Association has shown, there are still issues around quality of care across the country. Many parts of the NHS provide really good care, but some fall short of what patients expect and deserve.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley says, “We have universal access but it is not universally excellent; nor universally responsive to patients. So we need to focus in on quality and on providing a personalised service built around the needs and wishes of the individual. Health outcomes are the things that really matter most to patients. Things like survival rates, recovery rates, whether people can live independently and with dignity. We are putting patients in control of their own care - of where, by whom and even, where appropriate, how they are treated - because it will lead to better outcomes. And we are giving power to design and buy in local health services to doctors and other healthcare professionals because they are best placed to improve health outcomes.”

Every year the Commonwealth Fund produces an international survey comparing the health systems of different countries. Patients were surveyed in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The Commonwealth Fund’s research focused specifically on affordability and access, care coordination, patient safety, doctor and patient relationship, the management of chronic illness and primary care.

The survey showed that the UK performed well on several areas, including:

  • More people in England can get a same or next day appointment with a doctor or nurse than in other countries
  • More people feel they spend enough time with their doctor when they see them
  • The UK has the best scores on patient safety with only 8% saying that they had experienced any medical or medication errors
  • Almost nobody has serious problems paying their medical bills.
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