Spending on and availability of health care resources: how does the UK compare to other countries?

The King’s Fund | May 2018 | Spending on and availability of health care resources: how does the UK compare to other countries?

The King’s Fund has published a briefing which analyses UK spending on health care compared to other European countries.  The briefing  focuses  on a small number of key resources – staff, beds, equipment and medicines – using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  The think-tank has also updated their analysis of how much the UK spends on health care under the new System of Health Accounts 2011 methodology, which has led to substantial changes in what is classed as ‘health care spending’ (The King’s Fund).

The key messages include:

  • Our analysis of health care spending in 21 countries shows that the UK has fewer doctors and nurses per head of population than almost all the other countries we looked at. Only Poland has fewer of both.
  • The UK has fewer magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scanners in relation to its population than any of the countries we analysed. Although this data should be treated with particular caution, it is clear that the UK lags a long way behind other high-performing health systems in investing in these important technologies.
  • Of the countries we looked at, only Denmark and Sweden have fewer hospital beds per head of population than the UK, while the UK also has fewer beds in residential care settings than comparator countries. While lower numbers of hospital beds can be a sign of efficiency, the growing shortage of beds in UK hospitals indicates that bed reductions in the NHS may have gone too far.
  • Although costs are rising, the UK spends less on medicines than most of the countries we analysed. A key reason for this is the success of initiatives to improve the value of expenditure on medicines, such as encouraging the use of generic drugs.

The other key messages are available from The King’s Fund 

The full, long read is available at The King’s Fund 

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