A recent article in the SMH about health care in Australia surprised me. It was a review of reasonably sick people, and how likely they were to skip treatment because of the cost in different countries.
The study was based on interviews with 7000 adults, from six industrialised countries, who said their health was fair or poor, had been admitted to hospital, or had had a serious illness in the past two years. It was described as being by a “left leaning” think tank (by the SMH), but the only evidence of that in the study was in the questions that they decided to ask.
I wasn’t surprised that adults in the US came out pretty much worst of all on all the criteria (the study’s abstract says “The United States often stands out for inefficient care and errors and is an outlier on access/cost barriers”) but I was surprised at how much better the UK was on access criteria. In answer to the question about access problems due to cost over the past 2 years, only 13% of patients in the UK reported any form of access problems, where as 22% of Australians didn’t access health care for cost reasons (similar in Canada and Germany), and a whopping 51% of citizens of the US.
I had previously had the vague impression that the UK spends a significantly lower amount on health care as a % of GDP than we do, for roughly the same outcomes (with a lot less patient choice).
The general standard of care doesn’t seem that much better or worse in the UK. But the NHS certainly seems to be doing something right for the ability of sick citizens to actually get health care when they need it.