International Comparison

The government’s inadequate funding for healthcare means that the UK is falling behind other countries in terms of investment in health as a proportion of GDP, according to research by The King’s Fund published in March 2016 based on OECD figures.

We don't spend as much of our income on healthcare as other comparable countries.

Falling behind our neighbours

In July 2016 the OECD published updated statistics on funding for healthcare; these included a change in health spending accounting for the UK, most notably the inclusion of spending on social care. This change meant that total public and private spending on health jumps from 8.7% of GDP to 9.9% for 2013 and for 2015 the estimate is given as 9.8%. However, there has been no change in the budget for the NHS - it has not suddenly increased.

The change in accounting practice means that the UK can now only really be compared to 12 other countries which use the same standards of accounting. However these countries are many of the ones the UK is normally compared to, including its near neighbours in Europe - France, The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Despite the leap in the proportion of GDP spent on healthcare for the UK in the new OECD figures, of the 13 countries compared, the UK spends less on healthcare as a proportion of GDP than nine of those countries, including Germany, France, Sweden, Canada, Austria and Belgium.  Only Portugal, Hungary and Poland spend less of their GDP on healthcare. So although the figures may have changed the position the UK is in compared to its neighbours, has not and the UK still looks like a “low spender” on healthcare.

In a March 2016 Guardian article Prof John Appleby, lead economist at the King’s Fund, warned  “that Britain’s status as an increasingly “low spender” might mean the NHS cannot deliver improvements in the quality of care and outcomes from treatment that patients want.”.