Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Performance of UK National Health Service compared with other high income countries: observational study

Papanicolas, Irene ORCID: 0000-0002-8000-3185, Mossialos, Elias ORCID: 0000-0001-8664-9297, Gundersen, Anders, Woskie, Liana and Jha, Ashish (2019) Performance of UK National Health Service compared with other high income countries: observational study. BMJ, 367. ISSN 0959-8138

[img] Text (PerformanceofUKNationalHealthService) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (552kB)

Identification Number: 10.1136/bmj.l6326


Objective To determine how the UK National Health Service (NHS) is performing relative to health systems of other high income countries, given that it is facing sustained financial pressure, increasing levels of demand, and cuts to social care. Design Observational study using secondary data from key international organisations such as Eurostat and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Setting Healthcare systems of the UK and nine high income comparator countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US. Main outcome measures 79 indicators across seven domains: population and healthcare coverage, healthcare and social spending, structural capacity, utilisation, access to care, quality of care, and population health. Results The UK spent the least per capita on healthcare in 2017 compared with all other countries studied (UK $3825 (£2972; €3392); mean $5700), and spending was growing at slightly lower levels (0.02% of gross domestic product in the previous four years, compared with a mean of 0.07%). The UK had the lowest rates of unmet need and among the lowest numbers of doctors and nurses per capita, despite having average levels of utilisation (number of hospital admissions). The UK had slightly below average life expectancy (81.3 years compared with a mean of 81.7) and cancer survival, including breast, cervical, colon, and rectal cancer. Although several health service outcomes were poor, such as postoperative sepsis after abdominal surgery (UK 2454 per 100 000 discharges; mean 2058 per 100 000 discharges), 30 day mortality for acute myocardial infarction (UK 7.1%; mean 5.5%), and ischaemic stroke (UK 9.6%; mean 6.6%), the UK achieved lower than average rates of postoperative deep venous thrombosis after joint surgery and fewer healthcare associated infections. Conclusions The NHS showed pockets of good performance, including in health service outcomes, but spending, patient safety, and population health were all below average to average at best. Taken together, these results suggest that if the NHS wants to achieve comparable health outcomes at a time of growing demographic pressure, it may need to spend more to increase the supply of labour and long term care and reduce the declining trend in social spending to match levels of comparator countries.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Divisions: Health Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2019 11:42
Last Modified: 30 May 2024 07:00

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics