The NHS has lost its prestigious ranking as the best healthcare system in a to study out of 11 wealthy countries by an influential US think tank.
The UK has slipped from first to fourth place in the Commonwealth Fund’s latest analysis of the performance of health systems in the nations it studied.
Norway, the Netherlands and Australia now provide better care than the UK, he found. The findings are a blow to the NHS, which had been the highest-rated system in the thinktank’s two previous reports in 2017 and 2014. The United States had by far the lowest-rated system, despite spending more on care.
The Washington-based Commonwealth Fund blamed the NHS’s slide in its rankings on delays patients face in accessing care and treatment, underinvestment in service, and poverty.
“According to this report, our health service, which was previously a world leader, is at risk of passing into the middle of the pool, largely due to increasing system-wide delays in people’s ability to access care. quickly, “said Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at King’s Fund, the UK’s leading health think tank.
“We cannot hide this under the rug as a consequence solely of the impact of the pandemic on patients, staff and services. Even before Covid, waiting lists for treatment were already sizable after a decade of funding stagnation and a growing workforce crisis.
“As Covid put unprecedented pressure on the NHS, the waiting list for routine NHS care has exploded to levels not seen since the early 2000s. While the NHS is doing its best to to keep services running, the growing demand for hospital, mental health and GP services means that the entire health and care system is now facing a capacity crisis, ”he added.
Eric Schneider, lead author of the Commonwealth Fund’s Mirror, Mirror 2021 report, said the UK scored lower compared to 2017 in three of the five domains its expert panel used: access to care; care processes, which analyze the coordination of treatment and how well patients are involved; and equity, or the ability to obtain health care regardless of income.
He noted the time taken to access care in the UK as a key factor in his ranking. “For example, almost 60% of adults in the UK found it somewhat or very difficult to get after-hours care, one of the highest rates among the countries surveyed,” he said.
The study also found that while 78% of Britons in 2017 said their regular doctor always or frequently answered a query on the day it was raised, only 65% did so this year. Similarly, while 57% in 2017 said they saw a doctor or nurse on the same or next day the last time they sought care, that has dropped to 52%.
Furthermore, only 33% of the patients said they received counseling or treatment for mental health problems when they sought help from a specialist in psychological or psychiatric illness, a new indicator that the expert group had not previously analyzed. The NHS was the second worst performing country of the 11 countries on that criterion, just ahead of France.
In addition to ranking fourth overall, the UK also ranked fourth out of 11 in access to care, administrative efficiency and equity, and fifth in care processes, but only ninth in results from the medical care, which measures how well patients recover after undergoing medical treatment.
When asked to explain the decline of the NHS relative to other nations, Schneider added: “We know that reported experiences of access, coordination and participation can deteriorate over time if budgets are cut. The UK has been a remarkably lean spender among high-income countries, yet it has maintained a very high ranking. “
NHS England declined to comment. The Department of Health and Social Assistance was contacted to respond to the findings.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism