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How does medical care in the UK differ from other countries?

The UK is fortunate to have the National Health Service, also known as the NHS. We can access outstanding healthcare without needing to pay an upfront cost. The UK’s healthcare system is efficient and has led the way for many countries in Europe. However, our beloved NHS faces several challenges, and there are definitely issues within the system.

So, where does the UK healthcare system do well?

The NHS has made impressive savings on pharmaceutical spending by prescribing drugs in their generic form – instead of the branded version. The pills look cheaper in this generic form and not as impressive without their branding. The average UK hospital stay is a day shorter than the EU average and significantly lower than France and Germany’s records. Shorter hospital stays indicate brilliant efficiency and system organisation.

Where could the UK healthcare system improve?

The UK healthcare system continues to receive negative reviews and claims of the healthcare quality being ‘average or disappointing.’ The UK has fallen down the international league table for infant mortality and sits at number 15 out of 19 countries. Despite recent improvements, cervical and breast cancer survival rates are also below the EU average in the UK. In fact, the UK has the worst cancer outcomes out of any wealthy country in the world.

The UK has one of the lowest numbers of practising doctors in the EU and fewer CT scanners and MRI machines than most European countries. NHS waiting times are growing, the quality of care is slipping, and medical negligence claims are increasing at a rapid rate. In the UK, the NHS is now setting aside billions a year to cover medical negligence claims.

In 1948, the NHS set out to provide a universal service free at the point of use. Now, people can see their GP, call an ambulance, go through A&E, have major surgery and a whole host of treatment plans completely free of charge. However, a staggering 11% of people prefer to pay for private health insurance instead.

Other countries, like the US, are duty-bound to treat emergency cases – but they do not offer the service free of charge. The United States is known for its crushing medical fees and high health insurance costs. In fact, the US has some of the highest healthcare costs in the world and some of the worst outcomes.

The NHS was under an enormous amount of strain before the pandemic – and now, the cracks are beginning to show.

About the author

Alice Instone-Brewer

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