NHS ‘worse than average’ in treating common causes of death


A report by four think tanks has concluded that the NHS is failing when it comes to treating eight of the 12 most common causes of death.

The health service performs worse than average on breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung disease, respiratory infections, stroke and heart attacks, according to the report, How Good Is The NHS?

The Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and The King’s Fund compiled the report to mark the 70th birthday of the organisation. It compared the NHS with 18 similar developed countries.

The investigators looked at five key topics, covering the relative strengths and weaknesses of the health service, the state of social care, NHS funding, the public’s expectations of the NHS and the potential of technology to change things in future.

As well as lagging behind in the aforementioned areas, the research showed that the NHS had consistently higher rates of death for babies at birth or just after and in the first month of life.

And, the service has ‘very low levels’ of hospital beds and the lowest levels of CT and MRI scanners, due to a lack of investment during austerity measures.

Since 2010, budget rises in the health service have hovered between 1% and 2% annually, falling short of the usual 4% mark.

Prime Minister Theresa May recently pledged a so-called Brexit dividend of £20 billion a year in real terms by 2024 to the NHS, but this will fall short of the figures needed, warned analysts.

On a positive note, the report said the NHS provided unusually good financial protection to the public from the consequences of ill health. It has the lowest proportion of people who skipped medicine due to cost (2.3% in 2016 compared to an average of 7.2%).

Levels of generic prescribing in the NHS are also higher than in the comparator countries: 84% in 2015 compared to an average of 50% elsewhere.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “The truth about the NHS is that by international standards it is a perfectly ordinary healthcare system, providing average levels of care for a middling level of cost.

“Access is good and people are protected from high costs, but its performance in treating people with cancer is poor, and international comparisons suggest too many people in the UK die when good medical care could have saved their lives.”