NHS drops to fourth among rich countries’ healthcare systems

The NHS has lost its prestigious ranking as the best health system in a Commonwealth Fund study of 11 rich countries, falling to fourth.

The Commonwealth Fund’s latest analysis of the performance of the healthcare systems in the nations it studied finds that Norway, the Netherlands and Australia now provide better care than the UK. The NHS had been the top-rated system in the think tank’s two previous reports in 2017 and 2014.

The Commonwealth Fund blamed the NHS’s slip down its league table on the delays patients face in accessing care and treatment, lack of investment in the service and poverty.

According to the analysis, the UK had scored lower marks compared with 2017 on three of the five domains its panel of experts used: access to care; care processes, which look at the co-ordination of treatment and how well patients are involved; and equity, or the ability to obtain healthcare regardless of income.

The study also found that while 78 per cent of Britons in 2017 said that their regular doctor always or often answered a query on the day they posed it, just 65 per cent did so this year. Similarly, while 57 per cent in 2017 said they saw a doctor or nurse on the same or next day the last time they sought care, that has fallen to 52 per cent.

Siva Anandaciva, the chief analyst at the King’s Fund, said: “According to this report, our previously world-beating health service is at risk of moving to the middle of the pack, largely due to growing delays across the system in people’s ability to access care quickly. We can’t brush this under the carpet as being solely a consequence of the impact of the pandemic on patients, staff and services. Even before Covid, waiting lists for treatment were already sizeable after a decade of stalling funding and a growing workforce crisis.

“As Covid put the NHS under unprecedented pressure, the waiting list for routine NHS care has ballooned to levels not seen since the early 2000s. Whilst the NHS is doing its best to keep services running, increasing demand for hospital, mental health and GP services means the whole health and care system is now facing a capacity crunch.”

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The NHS is made up of more than 8,000 organisations, with many more across the wider health and care sector.

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