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NHS drops in global healthcare rankings due to delays in accessing care

NHS drops in global healthcare rankings due to delays in accessing care
By Jess Hacker
5 August 2021

The NHS has fallen from its top spot to fourth place in a ranking of health services globally due to delays in accessing care, a thinktank’s analysis has judged.

In its new report (4 August), the Commonwealth Fund ranked the UK’s health care system at number four: three spots lower than its 2017 ranking.

The report – which compared the health systems of 11 high-income countries, including France, Germany and the US – now ranks Norway, the Netherlands, and Australia as the top three.

The authors blamed the UK’s drop to fourth place on delays in accessing care – as reported by primary care clinicians – and on poverty, as measured by a person’s ability to receive healthcare irrespective of income.

When compared to the previous report published in 2017, the UK had ranked third for access to care and first place for equity. Measured across five metrics, the analysis ranked the NHS:

  • 4th for access to care
  • 5th for its care process
  • 4th for administrative efficiency
  • 4th for equity
  • 9th for healthcare outcomes.

The NHS is currently facing the largest backlog for care in its history, recently measured as more than 5 million people waiting to receive elective care.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to making sure the NHS has everything it needs to continue providing excellent care to the public, as we tackle the backlogs that have built up.

‘We gave the NHS a historic settlement in 2018, which will see its budget rise to £33.9 billion by 2023/24, and we have provided an extra £92 billion to support health and care services throughout the pandemic.’

NHS England declined to comment.

Does not reflect ‘tremendous efforts’ of NHS staff

However, the drop in the rankings should not be taken as a reflection on the work and care delivered by NHS staff throughout the pandemic, the BMA has said.

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair, said the new ranking ‘highlights the enormous impact that the pandemic has on the overall health service’.

He said: ‘This is absolutely no reflection on the tremendous efforts of all healthcare staff in the past year but rather a clear sign of the lack of investment by the Government and failure to adequately resource the NHS in its greatest hour of need.’

Instead of pressing on with the reorganisation of the health service via the NHS bill, the Government must redirect its attention toward tackling the care backlog, he added.

‘The Government must not allow this downward trajectory to continue.’

The controversial Health and Care Bill, which was presented to Parliament last month, has been criticised for overly interfering with the day-to-day management of the NHS, while failing to properly address staff shortages and the backlog.

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