US and UK health outcomes rank lowest in survey of 19 countries

Think tank study ranks comparable nations in life expectancy and survival rates from major illnesses

Staff nurses work in the corridor of the acute dependency unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London, on April 14. PA

A major new comparison of global health systems places the UK second to bottom in results including life expectancy and survival rates from cancer, strokes and heart attacks.

The first International Health Care Outcomes Index by the Civitas think tank is an independent evaluation that ranks the UK health system against 18 other comparable countries by looking at spending and 16 major healthcare outcomes.

Data for the comparison between countries has been taken from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development heath statistics database.

All of the other countries studied, apart from America, provide universal access to health care and deliver better outcomes for patients.

Of the 16 major healthcare outcomes, the UK comes bottom four times — more than any other country — and is in the bottom three for eight of them.

No other comparable country has such a poor record.

The index ranks the UK 10th of 19 for spending on its health system as a percentage of GDP.

In 2019, the UK ranked 17th of 19 countries for life expectancy. For strokes and heart attacks, the UK has the worst survival rates.

Across five different types of cancer measured by the OECD, the NHS comes 16th of 18 countries.

For treatable diseases the UK is second to bottom — 15th of 16. If the UK matched the average of other countries, more than 6,500 lives every year would be saved, or 17 a day.

The only thing the UK tops the charts for is helping diabetics to avoid limb amputation.

“If what matters most to patients is the outcome of the treatment that they will receive, then these findings should be of concern to all, not least as the least well-off are those who have no alternative to the NHS, “ said Tim Knox, the report’s author.

“Aneurin Bevan once declared, shortly after the foundation of the NHS in 1948, that the NHS 'would make Great Britain the envy of all other nations in the world'.

"And Bevan was right — at the time. We then had one of the very few free at the point of use, universal health systems anywhere in the world.

"The problem is that many other countries have now overtaken us. By far. The latest British Social Attitudes survey suggests that the British public is beginning to realise this.

"While they recognise that the doctors, nurses, porters and medical staff do an amazing job, people are starting to ask serious questions about how good our health system really is.

“It is time politicians caught up. Britain is firmly at the bottom of the league. Across 19 comparable countries only America does worse. How can we be proud of that?”

Updated: April 26, 2022, 11:01 PM