The NHS is less efficient than other similar healthcare systems around the world, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Health care systems: efficiency and institutions compares 29 countries that have a broad range of healthcare systems.
The authors compared spending with “outcomes” such as life expectancy and undesired “outputs” such as unnecessary admission rates.
The UK fares less well on these measures of efficiency when compared with other countries that have similar public health systems - Hungary, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Poland.
The report says: “Italy, Norway, Poland and Portugal are doing quite well. Ireland, New Zealand and the UK are less efficient.”
But the report adds the caveat that performance scores should be interpreted “with particular care” in the case of New Zealand and the UK because recent reforms and increases in spending “might require time to fully translate into better health outcomes”.
Overall the study identifies Australia, Korea, Japan and Switzerland as those that “perform best in transforming money into health outcomes”.
But it says borrowing individual elements from those systems would be preferable to wholesale adoptions of their policies, as no single system is most efficient across the board.
It recommends that the UK could help “mitigate price pressures” by “reinforcing competitive pressures on providers”, in particular increasing user choice and reforming compensation systems such as payment by results.
The authors chose three clinical quality measures they said were indicative of strengths and weaknesses in the prevention strategies of different countries. These were avoidable hospital admission rates for asthma, for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and for congestive heart failure.
The UK had the eighth highest rate of unnecessary COPD admissions and the fifth highest for asthma. But for heart failure it had the second lowest unnecessary admission rate - possibly as a result of the priority attributed to it in government policy.
The previous government published the national service framework for coronary heart disease in 2000 - the first of its kind - but a national strategy for COPD had only reached the consultation stage by the time of the election.