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NHS Performance: Is it better or worse than other world leading healthcare systems

21 August 2023

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Stephen Winn, a Solicitor in the Clinical Negligence Department looks at whether the NHS performs better or worse than other World leading healthcare systems.

A review by the King’s Fund think tank said people in the UK are less likely to survive treatable conditions, such as breast cancer and stroke, than those in other rich nations. It also found that the problem may be directly linked to the performance of the NHS.

The think tank compared the UK’s health service with the performance of 18 other health systems, including those in Europe as well as Japan, the USA and Australia. It found:

  • Only the USA had a worse record in terms of preventing death from treatable conditions
  • The UK had one of the lowest levels of life expectancy
  • The NHS has strikingly low levels of key clinical staff, with fewer doctors and nurses per head than most of its peers
  • One of the lowest number of hospital beds per capita
  • The UK has less equipment relative to its population size: the USA has five times as many scanners, for example, and Germany four times
  • Below-average spending on the UK health service has resulted in fewer staff and equipment than systems elsewhere.

But the study showed the NHS was very efficient within its budget, with less cash spent on administration than other nations.

The review noted waiting lists for routine treatments, such as knee and hip replacements, were rising in many countries – with waiting times in the NHS around average. It was therefore thought that the NHS was not a leader or lagger but had seen better days in its 75 year history.

No doubt that current funding issues, staffing levels, strikes and the pandemic have all compounded the problems the NHS has always faced when providing healthcare to the nation.

It was also clear that the results of the study did not reveal any argument for a particular type of funding model providing better results, or how funding was approached was better than another.

The government has also published a workforce plan, which has set out a big increase in training places for doctors and nurses in one step to try to resolve some of the problems identified. This is a long term strategy and not a quick fix solution.

This report also coincides with NHS Resolution’s annual report for 2022/2023. NHS Resolution are the legal arm of NHS hospital trusts and GP practices and deal with cases that are made against the healthcare providers. The report has demonstrated that 80% of claims were resolved without involving litigation in the courts. They also said the achievements were due to a more collaborative approach that was less adversarial, the use of mediation, resolution meetings and some processed embraced because of the pandemic still being used.

They have also indicated significant progress enhancing safety within the NHS. However, it will be interesting to see how this changes, if at all, next year when the continuing impact of the pandemic, industrial action, increased waiting lists and increased staffing vacancies have had time to further stretch resources.

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