NHS 'lags behind other health systems'

Media caption,

This class is meant to improve cancer survival rates, as Dominic Hughes reports

The NHS lags behind other countries on preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and improving survival rates, a report has suggested.

The review by the Nuffield Trust think tank into 15 wealthy nations found lower cancer survival and higher death rates from heart attacks and strokes.

However, on measures such as immunisation and antibiotic prescribing the UK performed better.

Overall performance was also showing signs of improvement on most measures.

Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said: "Interpreting international data on healthcare systems is notoriously tricky and any comparison should be handled with care.

"However, it is clear from this analysis that the UK can and should do better.

"Our poor performance on cancer survival compared with other leading countries is well-known and continues to be a concern.

"We enter the new parliament with a mountain to climb in reducing preventable hospital admissions and improving survival from common killer diseases, all at a time of continuing austerity affecting public services."

Key indicators

The review looked at 27 different indicators and compared performance from 2000 to 2012.

Among the key findings were:

  • Immunisation rates were higher in the UK, suggesting the GP system for providing universal care was working well
  • Although the volume of antibiotics prescribed in the UK was rising, the overall rates tended to be lower than those in many countries
  • Rates of avoidable hospital admissions were high for conditions such as asthma and respiratory disease
  • Death rates for stroke and heart attacks, while improving, tended to be higher than other countries
  • On cancer care, while screening rates remained high, survival and death rates were still worse than other nations

A Department of Health spokesman said there were still promising signs.

"The report shows we've made significant progress in quality across the board," he said.

"The NHS is already perhaps the most equitable system globally and we are now focusing on tackling preventable conditions like obesity and type two diabetes."

Meanwhile, a separate report by the King's Fund think tank showed a large number of NHS trusts were forecasting deficits.

Nearly two thirds of the 100 trusts which responded said they were likely to be going into the red this year, compared with one in four this time last year.