The NHS has been ranked the best in the English-speaking world.

It scored highest on quality, efficiency and equity, while the US healthcare system came bottom of the league of major English-speaking countries, which also included Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The survey by US research organisation the Commonwealth Fund used data and views from physicians and patients in each country to identify which health services overall offered patients the best value for money.

The UK spent less on healthcare than all the countries except New Zealand at US$2,546 per head in 2004, whereas the US spent the most and delivered the worst quality of care.

Despite the poor perception of NHS IT systems, the report says the increased use of IT in the UK plays a large role in the country's high score in long-term conditions management and preventive care. Health professionals' use of computer-activated alerts to potential health problems also helped to place the UK second in safe care measures.

The UK also scored significantly better on its use of multidisciplinary teams in primary care, with eight out of 10 UK doctors reporting the use of this practice, compared with one in three in Australia.

However, the NHS fell short on its timeliness of care, with UK patients facing the longest waits for elective surgery.