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Resourcing is the basic problem of the NHS, international report says


6 May 2015

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Analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit said the NHS’s main and basic problem is on resourcing.

THE NHS: How does it compare?report focused on 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of wealthy nations whose healthcare systems are comparable to the NHS.

Analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit said the NHS’s main and basic problem is on resourcing.

THE NHS: How does it compare?report focused on 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of wealthy nations whose healthcare systems are comparable to the NHS.

The UK ranks near the bottom of the league in resourcing, as it has just 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 population against a OECD average of 4.8. Similarly the density of equipment, such as computersied tomography scanners, is less than half the OECD average.

The report said: “The worry is that politicians will focus on yet more organisational reforms or extra services as a way to disguise the NHS’s basic resourcing problem.”

UK spending “largely kept pace with that of its international peers over the last parliament” however slipped during the financial crisis of 2008-09. UK spending per head fell by 2.1% a year in real terms in 2009-10 and a further 0.4% in 2010-11, before beginning to recover in 2011-12.

“We expect total UK spending per head to rise by around 4.2% a year in sterling terms in 2015-19,” the report said.

It went on to say that staffing is the biggest single cost for the NHS (an estimated 60% of total spending), but it has just 2.8 doctors and 8.2 nurses per 10,000 population, compared with OECD averages of 3.2 and 8.9.

“This is worrying, because our previous analysis of spending and outcomes suggested there was a correlation of staff numbers and outcomes.”

Although the UK’s staffing levels are not high, the number of doctors per 10,000 population has risen steadily since the 1960s and “this trend is unlikely to end soon.”

“At a more senior level, too, managers are necessary, and at their best help clinical staff to do their job better,” the report said. In terms of administrative staff, on an international scale their cost is low.

Pharmaceutical spending is also quite low comparatively, since it has to varying degrees been “encouraging or enforcing the use of generic drugs, bringing in stricter pharma pricing systems and increasing copayments to stem the rise in drug usage.”

Problems that the report said would need to be addressed in the next five years include increased fertility rates resulting in a projected population increase from 64m in 2014 to 66m in 2019.

“New tasks, targets and structures could end up becoming a further distraction for NHS staff and managers… at a time when the real need is for a greater focus on the basic standard of care,” the report said.

Taken from The Economist Intelligence Unit Report THE NHS: How does it compare?

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