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Matthew Sinclair: If NHS standards were the same as our European peers', nearly 12,000 fewer people would die each year

By Matthew Sinclair

Jill Kirby makes a powerful point this morning when she says that as "today's report from the Care Quality Commission shows, romanticising the NHS as a national treasure is ludicrously out of touch with the reality of the health service most of us now experience."  Lots of people have experienced wonderful treatment from talented staff in the NHS and feel a deep loyalty to the institutions that have looked after them.  We shouldn't dismiss that, but neither should we flinch from pointing out how patients and staff are being let down by the failures in the wider system.  You can see that not just in the anecdotal evidence but also if you really put the numbers in context looking at how the NHS is performing over time, and in comparison to other European healthcare systems.  The NHS can do better.

There is no perfect measure of healthcare performance.  We need to get some numbers though if we are to avoid a competition between anecdotal stories of NHS failure on one side, and lurid claims about American healthcare from defenders of the NHS eager to lay into a straw man.  To get away from that kind of sterile debate we've released a TaxPayers' Alliance study today that looks at mortality amenable to healthcare in Britain and three European peers - the Netherlands, France and Spain - since 1981.  No measure of healthcare performance is perfect but this is one, first pioneered in the British Medical Journal, that at least avoids some of the basic problems affecting other benchmarks.

The picture that you get is stark, and backed up by looking at raw mortality data. The NHS is catching up. But it is doing so slowly and at a pretty constant pace since 1981.  You just can't see any change in the trend for the massive amounts of money that Gordon Brown poured into the Health budget.  And there are still nearly 12,000 more deaths a year thanks to Britain's higher mortality amenable to healthcare.  To help explain the issues for people, we've produced this video - please help share it around:

As Nick Bosanquet, Professor of Health Policy at Imperial College London, says in the foreword to the new TPA report, it "is clear that triple nationalization – funding, resource allocation and provision delivers results which are deeply damaging to many patients."  The question Jill Kirby has rightly identified is whether, in the face of furious opposition from defenders of the status quo, the Government has seriously addressed that.


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