Funding crisis, staff shortages leave NHS among world’s worse health services – OECD

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Healthcare in the UK is among the worst in the developed world, a new report has concluded, with underequipped and short-staffed hospitals leading to unnecessary deaths across the country.

The report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the National Health Service (NHS) has a disastrous record of preventing illnesses, with the organization’s deputy director calling the healthcare provider “outstandingly poor.”

The OECD findings will prove an embarrassment for Prime Minister David Cameron who has previously denied the NHS is suffering a lack of funding, despite an £8 billion (US$12.2 billion) black hole in its budget. He has also routinely pledged to protect the NHS budget from austerity measures.

While the report notes that access to care is “generally good,” in some areas the quality of healthcare is “poor to mediocre.” It adds that a further 75,000 doctors and nurses are needed in order to meet the healthcare standards of other developed nations.

The study compared healthcare data across 34 different countries, and found that a number of lifestyle issues have not been properly addressed in the UK.

Obesity levels are “dire” and “high rates of smoking, harmful alcohol consumption and obesity require urgent attention,” the report states.

“These are important risk factors for some of the leading causes of premature mortality, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. The UK population is amongst the most overweight in the OECD; one in four British adults is obese, compared to an OECD average of 19,” it adds.

The OECD also ranks Britain on the same level as Chile and Poland for its cancer care, showing a marked difference from the top performing countries.

The UK came 21st out of 23 on the cervical cancer survival list, and 20th out of 23 on breast and bowel cancer survival.

It further said survival rates after heart attacks and strokes are “worse than many other OECD countries.”

The group’s Deputy Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Mark Pearson said NHS staff are too busy to focus on improving care.

At the moment in the NHS I think there is the risk that people do not have the time to do that. What they are doing is going through the processes ... rather than being a learning organization, an organization that can improve.”

He added Britain was doing “outstandingly poorly” on the prevention of illness by promoting healthy lifestyles and said suggested that low levels of investment in the NHS was mirrored by a “somewhat mediocre performance across the board – from relatively low staffing levels, to high rates of avoidable admissions for asthma and lung disease.”