Earlier this week, the OECD published its Social Indicators for 2011. There is loads of good stuff in there for the information junkie to trawl through and I’m sure a number of us will be referring to it in the months ahead.
The figures on health spending are interesting, given the current debate about the cost of the NHS. As this graph shows, US public spending on healthcare is still slightly higher than that of the UK. (It has been for a number of years.) For similar per capita and percentage of GDP spending, we get a universal healthcare system while the Americans get one that caters only for the very poor, the very old and the disabled.
The OECD also notes that countries with higher spending on healthcare have higher life expectancy. Given the UK’s spending, its life expectancy is about where you would expect it to be.
There is, of course, room for improvement and healthcare systems in all developed countries will need to become more efficient as demographics, obesity, migration and other social pressures increase demands on their services.
In the search for improvement, there are useful lessons to learn from other countries. The most obvious places to look are those countries which spend less but have a higher life expectancy than the UK does. How do The Finns, New Zealanders, Australians and Japanese manage to spend less on healthcare yet live longer than we do? It might have as much to do with their diets and lifestyles as their healthcare spending but it must be worth investigating and I’m sure some people in the NHS are already be doing do.
It’s less clear that we have as much to learn from looking across the Atlantic. Life expectancy is only one way of assessing the effectiveness of a healthcare system but last time I looked at this, Britain compared favourably to the US on a number of other measures too. The inefficiency of the US system, both public and private, is well documented. Against this background, inviting American healthcare providers in to help make our system more efficient doesn’t look like the brightest idea.