Does UK lag behind other rich nations on health and care?Ruth Mabhiza
Does UK lag behind other rich nations on health and care?
The UK has fewer doctors and nurses and poorer access to elderly long-term care than other rich nations, a study shows.
The OECD review also warned that many Brits were living unhealthy lives with high rates of drinking and obesity.
But it praised the “strong access” to health care delivered by the NHS, saying there were low levels of inequality compared to other countries.
Spending at 9.8% of GDP – a measure of the size of the economy – was above the 8.8% average for the 36 nations.
The review – carried out every two years – looks at the performance and characteristics of the wealthiest nations across all continents.
How short of staff is the NHS?
The review looked at the number of doctors and nurses per 1,000 people.
The UK has 2.8 doctors and 7.8 nurses per 1,000 people.
That compares with OECD averages of 3.5 and 8.8 respectively.
The findings chime with warnings from unions and NHS bosses about high vacancy rates in the NHS.
Although the OECD review acknowledged that the number of doctors was on the rise.
The government is in the process of expanding training places.
But the NHS is still doing well
The health service tends to fare well in terms of efficiency in these sort of international comparisons.
And this OECD report is no different.
It says the NHS provides very good access to health care for just above average levels of spending.
The outcomes, on the whole, are pretty good – or at least in line with the average.
Treatment and survival for things like heart attacks and breast cancer are good.
Meanwhile, relatively few people live with diabetes.
What about elderly care?
The OECD review reserved its strongest commentary for what it calls long-term care.
In the UK this is largely delivered by the social care system run by councils.
It is means-tested and heavily rationed so only the poorest and neediest get help from the state.
It said British people generally had high levels of poor health after 65 – only 50% of women and 60% of men are free from disability after this point.
The OECD review said good-quality long-term care was particularly important for improving the quality of life for older populations.
But while access to health care was good, it was a different picture for long-term care, which includes help with daily tasks such as washing and dressing.
Spending on such care was below average, while informal carers shared a heavy burden, with nearly one in five people aged over 50 acting as informal carers, the fourth highest among the 18 countries for which there was comparable data.
In England, there have been years of talks and arguments over how to reform the social care system.
Following the 2017 election the government promised to bring forward plans.
But they were delayed on numerous occasions before the latest election was called.
Our lifestyles are not that healthy
Smoking rates are pretty low, but when it comes to the way we live our lives, that is about all the good news.
Adults consume higher rates of alcohol compared with other nations and nearly two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.
Both were higher than the OECD average.
Drug abuse, particularly heroin, was a “concern”, the OECD said, with its researchers noting there had been an increase in opioid-related deaths.
It also warned that gains in life expectancy have started slowing in recent years.
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