UK lagging behind European neighbours on health spending, says NHS Confederation

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Health spending in the UK lags considerably behind European countries such as Germany and France, and needs to rise significantly to catch up, according to the NHS Confederation.

While the UK spends more on healthcare than ever before, its expenditure in proportion to national income is lower than Europe’s two other largest economies, according to a report on funding needs commissioned by the NHS Confederation.

The report, launched in May and written by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation, noted that as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the UK continues to spend less on health than Germany, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Austria.

Figures from 2016 show that at 9.5 per cent as a share of national income, health spending – both public and private – falls substantially below spending in Germany, at 11.3 per cent, and France, at 11 per cent.

If the UK were to spend the same proportion of national income on health as Germany in the next year, this would add an extra £30 billion to the health budget, the report noted.

The UK also employs fewer doctors per head than all other EU countries. In 2015, the UK had 2.8 doctors per 1,000 people, compared with 4.1 doctors per 1,000 in Germany and 3.3 doctors per 1,000 in France.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:

“The choice we have to make is what sort of health and care system we are willing to pay for. The reality is that many other European countries, such as Germany and France, are already spending more than us on health.

“Increasing funding through taxation in line with this report’s findings would still only take us to the lower-middle ranks of comparable European countries in terms of the amount of tax we pay.

“Our report has sparked an important debate among politicians and the public about the future of health and social care in this country. It is hugely encouraging to see signs that it is now a priority on the Government’s agenda. The evidence shows that we cannot go on running as we are. We face a choice between significant investment or a period of managed decline.”

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