Friday, October 19, 2007

British Healthcare languishes


Labour has made much of its bid to "rescue" the NHS. It has presided over a kind of permanent revolution, recruiting tens of thousands of doctors and nurses (many from overseas, leading to charges of inadequate domestic training), building hospitals with the private sector, revamping hospital funding, and encouraging competition. It has also spent money: The NHS bill is to rise from £35 billion in 1998 to £110 billion (about $224 billion) by 2011.

But critics say the extra billions have not always been well spent. A recent survey said Britain ranks 17th out of 29 European countries on a range of healthcare benchmarks, including quality of service, length of wait times, and patient information.

"We are surprised that given the massive spend on healthcare, Britain is not faring better," says Kasja Wilhelmsson, director of European affairs at the Health Consumer Powerhouse, a Brussels-based healthcare research group that conducted the survey. "For waiting times, they are pretty close to the worst in Europe. And outcomes [of treatment] is not high either.