In Depth

The pros and cons of privatising the NHS

Questions have been raised about sustainability of Britain's health service

How does the UK compare worldwide?

Britain's healthcare system often comes under fire, but last year it was named the best in the world. In a study of 11 high-income nations carried out by the Commonwealth Fund, a private American foundation, the NHS was deemed the second cheapest and the best performing overall. It ranked first for access, safety, coordinated care, patient-centred care and efficiency – although it came in third for timeliness of care, beaten by Switzerland and the Netherlands. It also ranked among the lowest for "healthy lives", which took into account life expectancy, infant mortality and deaths that might have been prevented by medical care.

At the other end of the scale, the United States, where healthcare facilities are largely operated by private sector businesses, was deemed the most expensive and was ranked last in the study. Around 37 per cent of people in the US said they would avoid seeking medical help because of cost, while patients in the UK and Sweden, which also has a tax-payer funded system, were the least likely to report having these cost-related access concerns. Just four per cent of people in the UK said they were put off seeking medical care because of cost.

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