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How does the UK healthcare system compare to other countries?

Comparing the health care systems of different countries can help with the assessment of how the UK health care system is performing and where it could improve.

The current pressures on NHS services, and 75th anniversary of the NHS’s founding, mean this is a particularly important moment to assess how the UK’s health care system is faring – which is why this project was commissioned by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. This output was then independently developed, researched and written by The King’s Fund, and they have now published their final report.

The King’s Fund compared the health care systems in different countries by doing three things. First, they reviewed the research literature and assessed previous attempts to rank and compare health care systems. Second, they interviewed academic experts in international health care policy and experts who had extensive knowledge of the UK, German and Singaporean health care systems. Finally, they analysed the latest quantitative performance data for the UK health care system and the health systems of 18 higher-income peer countries.

The King’s Fund report shows that there is little evidence that one individual country performs consistently better than another across a range of performance indicators. Even countries such as Germany and Singapore, that score highly on several health system performance measures, are facing the challenge of rising demand from a growing and ageing population and the need to improve health care outcomes.

The UK health care system was found to have fewer key resources than its peers. It performs relatively well on some measures of efficiency, but waiting times for common procedures were ‘middle-of-the-pack’ before the Covid-19 pandemic and have deteriorated sharply since. And although the UK performs well on protecting people from some of the financial costs of ill health, we lag behind our peers on important health care outcomes, including life expectancy and deaths.

More information

More information and a copy of the report can be found on the Kings fund website.