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New report from The King’s Fund shows the UK underperforming on treatable health conditions, says the ABPI

The King’s Fund today published their independent report commissioned by the ABPI comparing the NHS to other international health systems. It gives the NHS a mixed bill of health across a range of outcome measures.

If the NHS is to successfully prevent and treat disease and deliver the best possible standards of care for patients, better use of medicines must be part of the strategy. Brian Duggan, Strategic Partnerships Policy Director, ABPI

While the report shows the UK to have one of the lowest-cost and most efficiently run health systems in the world, it also found that the UK tends to have much poorer health outcomes than its peers, coming 16th and 18th respectively for preventable and treatable causes of mortality in a basket of 19 comparable countries.[2]  

The report also shows that UK spending on medicines is the lowest among its peers, accounting for just 9% of the UK’s overall healthcare spend. This was the lowest proportion among eight other similar countries, including Italy 17%, Germany 17% and France 15%.[3]

While the report shows the UK performs reasonably well in speed of approval of new medicines for use in the NHS, separate Government data suggests that, all too often, eligible UK patients do not actually get the latest treatments they are entitled to. The UK has lower adoption of new medicines compared to the average of comparator countries. One year after a new medicine is launched, for every 100 patients who get it in similar countries across the world, only 58 eligible UK patients get the same treatment. This rises to 81 after five years.[4]

Today’s report from The Kings Fund also shows a mixed performance on avoidable hospital admissions for long-term conditions. While the UK performs relatively well on avoidable hospital admissions for diabetes and heart failure, it performs poorly on those for asthma and COPD.

Brian Duggan, Strategic Partnerships Policy Director at the ABPI said:

"Given the UK’s low spending on medicines and slow adoption of innovative treatments, it is not surprising that patients are missing out and we get poorer outcomes on avoidable mortality and hospital admissions for treatable diseases.

“If the NHS is to successfully prevent and treat disease and deliver the best possible standards of care for patients, better use of medicines must be part of the strategy.

“We know the NHS can do this. We saw it deliver the fastest roll-out of vaccines in history during the pandemic, as well as keeping essential medicines flowing to the people who needed them. This was done in partnership with industry and industry will continue to work with the NHS to help it meet the challenges of the next 75 years.”

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023

[1] The independent report from The Kings Fund, which was commissioned by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, considers how the UK NHS compares on a broad range of measures to 18 similar higher income countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The report authors drew on the latest available evidence to examine several measures including: the resources a health system has, such as funding, staff and equipment; how well the system uses those resources, for example efficiency, quality of care and health outcomes; and the wider context such as the health and behaviours of a country’s population.

‘How does the NHS compare to the health care systems of other countries?’ is authored by Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund and published by The King’s Fund on Monday 26 June 2023.

[2] The Kings Fund ‘How does the NHS compare to the health care systems of other countries?’ Figure 28, p81, 2022.  

[3] The Kings Fund ‘How does the NHS compare to the health care systems of other countries?’ Figure 18, p57, 2022

[4] Office for Life Sciences ‘Life Sciences Competitiveness Indicators’, Domestic market section, 2022

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.