NHS and US health system 'should share ideas'

Nurse Both the NHS and US health systems are under going major reforms

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The US health system and the NHS have much to learn from each other, experts say.

The academics - from Harvard University in the US and the UK-based Nuffield Trust think tank - suggested the two systems should share ideas as they were both going through major reforms.

Their Lancet review acknowledged there were a lot of differences.

But in terms of finance, organisation and IT there was also some common ground they could learn from, it added.

US v NHS

  • In the US it is generally up to individuals to insure themselves - although there is a basic state-funded scheme for the poor
  • By comparison, the NHS is a tax-funded system that provides access for everyone
  • Americans often deride the NHS for being a form of "socialised medicine", criticising it for what they see as rationing
  • Fans of the NHS tend to hit back that the US system is unfair as it leaves one in six people uninsured despite spending as a proportion of GDP being double what it is for the NHS

For instance, the experts point out that the NHS, which is in the middle of a £20bn savings drive in England, could learn from the transparency and analytical rigour provided by bodies such as the Congressional Budget Office in the US.

And lessons learned from the NHS's rollout of universal electronic health care records could prove helpful to the US, which is much further behind on the issue.

Report co-author Dr Jennifer Dixon, from the Nuffield Trust, said: "Comparing the US and England seems to be an unlikely project. Many people in both countries view the other as having a pariah health system that is not to be copied in any circumstance.

"But both countries are under pressure to get more value out of health care spending and reduce growth in expenditure to sustainable levels and are consequently experimenting with new ways to encourage clinicians, patients and institutions to help achieve this."

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