The NHS is not alone

Much has been made of the financial pressures on the NHS.

The coalition government came to power promising to protect the health budget in England.

It did, but only just. The NHS is getting 0.1% extra each year this parliament.

Although many people in and outside the health service have argued that is more like a cut because of the rising pressures from factors such as obesity and the ageing population.

But a joint report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and European Commission has shown that the NHS is not alone in facing such challenges.

It talks about the growing pressures being seen across Europe both in terms of finances and demand from patients.

This, its says, led in 2010 to the first fall in health spending across the continent since 1975.

Overall, investment fell by 0.6% per capita, compared to an average annual growth of 4.6% over the previous decade.

The biggest falls were seen in Ireland, Iceland and Estonia, which all saw spending drop by over 7%.

Only two countries - Germany and Malta - managed to spend more in 2010 than they had done on average for the previous decade.

The report's conclusion? Without careful management and improvements in efficiency patients could suffer.