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Survey shows NHS is a 'mediocre' performer in Europe

The UK's healthcare system has been rated as 'mediocre' in the annual survey of EU healthcare, the Euro Health Consumer Index (ECHI) for 2007, ranking 17th out of 29 countries.

The UK's healthcare system has been rated as 'mediocre' in the annual survey of EU healthcare, the Euro Health Consumer Index (ECHI) for 2007, ranking 17th out of 29 countries.

According to the ECHUU, the UK shows a mixed performance, winning the healthcare information section, but falling down on other major key indicators of quality, including waiting times and uneven performance quality.

In the same survey last year, the UK came 15th.

In five categories, covering 27 performance indicators, the UK scored 581 points out of a potential 1,000, compared to 806 for the winner Austria. That puts the UK in a similar league to Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.

The UK was found to have poor access to new treatments, especially for cancer, and longer than necessary patient waiting times. MRSA infections also remain a problem.

However, the UK healthcare system was found to be at the forefront of
patient access to information, via NHS direct, a high percentage of GPs using electronic patient records, a patient ombudsman and quality rankings for providers such as scorecards for every hospital. It was also found to score highly for treating heart problems.

"Patients in the UK have the right to expect more. Despite substantial funding increases, the UK still is a mediocre overall performer", stated Dr. Arne Bjˆrnberg the ECHI director.

"It may be that this represents the end of the road for the rationing approach which the UK has pursued."    

Sweden was found to excel at medical outcomes, but was found to be "really bad (and worsening) at accessibility and serviceÖ The NHS shares some fundamental problems with other centrally planned healthcare systems such as Sweden".

The index shows that half of European governments delay consumer access to new drugs, and not only for reasons of poor national wealth.

Although Austria emerged as the winner, the ECHI noted that it was difficult to separate Austria, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany from each other, and that very subtle changes in single scores modify their order.

The survey, conducted by Health Consumer Powerhouse, covers all 27 EU Member States, as well as Switzerland and Norway.

"Generally European healthcare continues to improve but medical outcomes statistics is still appallingly poor in many countries. This is not least the case regarding the number one killer condition: cardiovascular diseases," said Johan Hjertqvist, president of Health Consumer Powerhouse.

30th September 2008

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