“If the 21 countries were a football league then the UK would be in the relegation zone in terms of the resources we put into our healthcare system, as measured by staff, equipment and beds in which to care for patients,” said Siva Anandaciva, the King’s Fund’s chief analyst.
The UK has the third-lowest number of doctors among the 21 nations, with just 2.8 per 1,000 people, barely half the number in Austria, which has 5.1 doctors per 1,000 of population.
Similarly, the UK has the sixth-smallest number of nurses for its population: just 7.9 per 1,000 people – way behind Switzerland, which has the most: 18 nurses, more than twice as many.
With hospital beds, the UK has just 2.6 for every 1,000 people, just over a third of the number in Germany, which has the most – 8.1 beds – and which places the UK 18th overall out of the 21 countries which the OECD gathered figures for.
The number of hospital beds in England has halved over the last 30 years and now stands at about 100,000, though the NHS added about 4,000 more as an emergency measure in December, January, and February to help it cope with the spike in patient numbers caused by the long, cold winter.
Doctors’ leaders said the report showed that the NHS is “chronically underfunded” and is receiving £10bn less per year than it needs.
“These statistics show that the UK has fewer beds per head compared to virtually all other EU nations, fewer doctors and nurses, reduced access to investigations such as MRI scans, and is spending less on medications,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, leader of the British Medical Association, which represents most of the NHS’s 240,000 doctors.
“Taken together, these numbers translate into the painful reality afflicting the NHS daily, of a system under pressure with inadequate capacity to meet the health needs of the population. This is directly resulting in delays and is adversely affecting quality of care for patients. It is also causing unsustainable workload burdens on NHS staff, causing stress and burnout and affecting recruitment and retention.”