How does the UK compare internationally for health funding, staffing and hospital beds?

16 January 2017

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  • Spending on health is similar to – but 5% below – the EU-15 average for spending per person. The UK is further below the average for numbers of beds and staff.
  • This is in the context of nearly flat funding in the English NHS projected from 2016/17–2020/21, following spending (on the NHS across the UK) growing by about 5% a year between 1990/91 and 2010/11.
  • These measures show inputs not outcomes. A health system may have relatively fewer inputs but nonetheless perform better due to being more efficient or having better public health or social care systems in place.
  • Download a PowerPoint file of the individual charts

 

The UK has typically spent less on health care than the rest of the EU-15 (the first 15 countries to join the EU). This was true even during a period of investment in order to try and match the EU average spending on health in the 2000s.

UK spending is similar to – but 5% below – the EU-15 average for spending per person (in US$ purchasing power parity to make the figures comparable). The gap is slightly larger for hospital beds (2.7 per 1000 people, EU-15 average 4.5), nurses (8.2 vs 9.4), and doctors (2.8 vs 3.8). Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and France consistently spend more, have more beds, and more staff than the UK. They have a range of different health care systems, with Sweden’s very similar to the UK’s.

This is in the context of nearly flat funding in the English NHS projected from 2016/17 – 2020/21, following spending (on the NHS across the UK) growing by about 5% a year between 1990/91 and 2010/11.

The ‘correct’ level of resource (including spending, beds, and staff) depends not just on our position relative to our European neighbours but also a range of technical factors (eg, efficiency) and political and cultural views.

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