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Think tank ranks NHS highly

Published on 09/11/09 at 07:03am


The Department of Health has taken the opportunity to blow its own trumpet by publicising a US think tank's report that ranks the NHS as one of the best primary care systems in the world.

The report, by the New York-based Commonwealth Fund, found the UK was the only country where most doctors (51%) felt healthcare quality is on the up, having improved in the last three years.

Health secretary Andy Burnham, who was in Washington for the Fund's annual health conference, said: "The NHS is not perfect but it has moved from poor to good and I want to see it go from good to great on the next stage of the journey."

The report also covered Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US - the majority of who believe quality of care has stayed the same or got worse.

The UK also scored well on reporting long waiting times for patients to see specialists - just 22% of UK doctors said this was a problem.

The survey - carried out by post, phone and online - took in more than 10,000 primary care physicians, over 1,000 of whom were in the UK.

Most UK doctors (89%) said their practices had arrangements for after-hours care - comparing favourably with the US, in which only 29% of doctors said they have such facilities.

More than 90% of UK doctors use electronic medical records, compared with just 46% of US doctors.

All the countries surveyed use some form of financial incentive to improve quality of care, but the UK had the most recipients, with 89% of doctors surveyed saying they have received money in some form.

Sweden (10%) and Norway (35%) are the lowest in this regard.

Care teams - groups of clinicians and nurses, educating patients about their illness, treatment, diet and medication - have been shown to provide better care and improve outcomes, the report's authors say.

They found the UK and Sweden match each other when it comes to care teams, with a 98% uptake in both countries, and doctors in France (11%) report the lowest use of such teams.

Over half of US doctors - more than in any other country surveyed - said patients often have difficulty paying for drugs.

US doctors also spend substantial time dealing with the restrictions insurance companies place on patients' care, the survey says.

Just 6% of UK physicians report major problems with this.

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