Britain, the sick man of Europe: Heart and cancer survival rates among worst in developed world
British health care is little better than that of former Communist countries, which spend a fraction of the billions poured into the NHS.
A survey published yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development sees Britain languishing with the Czech Republic and Poland in international league tables on health.
The OECD - which represents developed Western countries, some former Soviet nations, Mexico, Japan and South Korea - compared healthcare standards among its 30 members and found that we lag even further behind the wealthiest nations, such as France, Sweden and Germany.
The figures showed:
Britain performed only marginally better than former Communist states whose governments spend only half as much on healthcare.
Last night critics seized on the league table as an indictment of Labour's failure to improve the Health Service over 12 years - despite tripling NHS spending to more than £100billion a year.
But ministers insisted the figures were out of date and that significant improvements have occurred since.
Among the OECD's most worrying findings were Britain's five-year survival rates for cancer between 2002 and 2007.
A shortage of cancer specialists and the lack of access to life-saving drugs is thought to be behind our poor showing.
On the positive side, the survey shows British healthcare is much more equitable than most other countries.
Just 9 per cent of low income homes say they have unmet care needs, compared to 52 per cent in the U.S. and 24 per cent in Germany.
Britain also has more nurses than many countries. There are ten nurses for every 1,000 people here. That's higher than the OECD average of 9.6 and the French figure of 7.7.
But the picture of cancer survival in this country remains bleak. The survey found that in Britain, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer had a 78.5 per cent likelihood of being alive five years later.
But in France, the figure was 82.6 per cent, in Sweden 86.1 per cent and in the U.S., 90.5 per cent.
The situation is even worse for those with bowel cancer. In these cases, Britain was the second worst country of the 30 member states.
Much of the blame for Britain's poor showing is attributed to the fact that patients and GPs fail to spot cancer signs early enough.
A lack of access to life-saving cancer drugs, a shortage of specialists, and a lack of MRI scanners are also factors.
The report found that in Britain there are 8.2 scanners per million people: much lower than the OECD average of 11.
There are also far fewer doctors in Britain: 2.5 per 1,000 population, compared to 3.4 in France.
The survey also found that British heart attack patients were more likely to die in hospital than others in the Western world.
In 2007, 6.3 per cent had died within 30 days of admission - compared to 4.9 per cent across the OECD, and 2.9 per cent in Denmark. Britain also performed poorly on keeping asthma and diabetes sufferers out of hospital - reflecting badly on the quality of GPs.
In Britain, 75 out of 100,000 people ended up in hospital with asthma in 2007.
In France the figure was 43 and in Germany, just 21.
The report found that Britain spends more than the average OECD nation on healthcare: just short of $3,000 (£1,850) per head of population.
This compares to $1,626 (£1,000) in the Czech Republic, where cancer survival rates are almost as good. However, the OECD acknowledged that healthcare had improved over the past decade.
Last night Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the data showed 'the enormous progress' that had been made.
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