UK lags behind European neighbours in healthcare index because of performance on cancer

NHS England signage

The UK lags behind some of its neighbours in terms of quality of and access to healthcare, results from a study published in The Lancet
have revealed.

Researchers used a novel index to compare the quality and accessibility of healthcare of 195 countries from 1990 to 2015. The rating (scored 0–100) is based on death rates from 32 diseases that could be avoided by effective medical care in the country year on year.

The findings show there has been a global improvement in healthcare quality and access over 25 years, but inequalities between the best and worst-performing countries have grown.

In 2015, Andorra had the highest score (94.6), while Central African Republic had the lowest (28.6).

The UK scored 84.6 in 2015 — an increase of 10.3 since 1990 — placing it 30th worldwide.

Co-author Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, says: “The UK has made consistent progress since 1990, but with a score of [84.6] it now lags behind many of its European neighbours, including Finland, Sweden, Spain (all 90) and Italy (89), all of which have health systems very similar to the British NHS and so are most directly comparable.”

All Scandinavian and Benelux countries performed better than the UK, as well as Ireland, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and Greece.

“The gap between what the UK achieves and what it would be expected to, given its level of development, is also wider than in other western European countries,” McKee adds.

“The UK does well in some areas, including cerebrovascular disease (88), likely to reflect the quality of general practice, where high blood pressure is detected and treated and advances in acute management of stroke, especially in London,” McKee adds. “But it lags behind in outcomes of some cancers, a problem that has many causes but is often attributed to low levels of investment in specialist care.”

South Korea, Turkey, Peru, China and the Maldives recorded some of the largest improvements (increasing by 24.1, 24.9, 23.7, 24.7 and 29.6 since 1990, respectively).


[1] Barber R, Fullman N, Sorensen R et al. Healthcare Access and Quality Index based on mortality from causes amenable to personal health care in 195 countries and territories, 1990–2015: a novel analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet 2017. doi: 10.1016/ S0140-6736(17)30818-8

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, UK lags behind European neighbours in healthcare index because of performance on cancer;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202824

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