People may have realised by now that I really like the NHS, I think it's one of the greatest things our country, even the world, have ever devised. A way to keep the less fortunate safe in the knowledge that they will be cared for and they won't have to worry about any bills. Ingenious.
So it would be unwise of me to miss the opportunity to lavish praise on it where it comes up, and this seemed like just such an opportunity. It comes from a commonwealth report that looked at the health care systems of 7 western countries (UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia) and found that the NHS was the most efficient, i.e. got most value for money, out of all the various systems. Pretty damn good for an NHS which is often on the end of criticism of 'wasted billions' in bureaucracy and chief executives.
The report looked at a whole range of areas, and overall the NHS came second in performance to the Netherlands, which spend a third more per capita on its health care system which is probably largely responsible. We ranked very highly in most areas of care and the fact that its free at the point of use meant we ranked top for access in cost-related problems.
Poor old USA was right at the bottom of the heap, despite spending way more than double what the UK spends on health care. Proof, if ever it was needed, that market forces aren't always the best way to run things like health care, in fact, they're the very worst way. You end up with people looking purely for profit, and patients are inevitably the ones who lose out.
One final interesting thing, is the rankings on patient centred care. The UK came 7th in this criteria, and the Netherlands (which came 1st overall) came 6th in this. This could how one of two things. Either, the countries which perform best have focused on other aspects of the care have gained and will improve further once care is more patient-centred. Or alternatively, is it the very fact that care isn't patient centred which makes the care good? With all the talk in the UK at the moment being about putting patients in charge of their care we should be careful not to do it just because it sounds nice in political sound bites. Everyone likes to have more control, but would they really still want that control if their health suffered because of it?