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Analysis finds NHS care is among best in the world

A recent analysis showing the NHS is one of the best health services in the world undermines the Government's argument for a massive reorganisation, the chair of Royal College of GPs has said.

The Commonwealth Fund survey ranks the NHS highly on a range of measures looking at how health systems deal with people with chronic and serious illness.

Of 11 high income countries surveyed it finds the NHS provides the fastest access to GPs, the best co-ordinated care, and suffers from the among the fewest medical errors,.

The countries examined were: the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Britain and Switzerland were consistently among the best performers, found the analysis of answers from over 18,000 adults with chronic and serious illness.

The success of the NHS stands out despite the fact that per capita health spending in the UK is the third lowest of the 11, at £2,170 per head, compared with £3,200 in Switzerland and £4,950 in the US.

RCGP chair Clare Gerada told Pulse that the study undermined the Government's rationale for embarking on such an ambitious reorganisation of the NHS.

She said: ‘Wherever I go I ask why we are going through such a big change and I haven't been given a coherent answer to that question bar the rhetoric about being patient centered.'

‘Why are we doing this? It isn't just the Commonwealth Fund and the Lancet study on cancer that are saying that the NHS is working - the NHS is about to overtake France on heart disease outcomes; our stroke care has rapidly improved; drug related deaths are at the lowest level since records began; unwanted teenage pregnancies are at an historic low and we still spend less on our healthcare than any equivalent healthcare system.'

Dr Gerada said health secretary Andrew Lansley's other arguments for the reforms, that the NHS faces increasing demand and must change, did not hold water either.

She said: ‘Their other argument for this huge change is that the NHS faces a rising demand and yet the Government does nothing to address problem drinking, obesity and the other public health challenges we face.'

‘Yes we have an ageing population but there is nothing new about that and these changes do not address that.'

Dr Gerada added that she was becoming increasingly worried about that the valuable role played by GPs as providers of care was being lost in the changes.

‘I am very worried about the role of GPs in this as providers. I think they are going to be lost into a managed care system.'

Speaking about the NHS modernisation plans at the Brookings Institute in Washington this week health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘Health outcomes are the things that really matter most to patients. Things like survival rates, recovery rates, whether people can live independently and with dignity. A patient's overall experience of healthcare — everything we do flows from this principle.'

‘We are putting patients in control of their own care - of where, by whom and even, where appropriate, how they are treated - because it will lead to better outcomes.'

‘And we are giving power to design and buy in local health services to doctors and other healthcare professionals because they are best placed to improve health outcomes.'