Next week the UK will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS. Its success in being “free at the point of use” makes it, to many, one of Britain’s crowning achievements of the last century. But a new report on UK healthcare comparing it with 18 major economies marks it as “underperforming significantly” including on life expectancy. The Kings Fund think tank attributes this to below-average healthcare spend per person, “strikingly” low levels of clinical staff, and the pandemic, compounding a decade of squeezed resources and funding. What the report says the NHS does do well is shield people from an excessive financial burden when falling ill. But it comes with a warning: if the service doesn’t improve, that may no longer hold as people turn to alternatives (paying out-of-pocket for healthcare). There is little evidence other healthcare systems perform inherently better, the report’s authors say, however its failures have to be acknowledged and improvements made.
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