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UK Tops International List on Healthcare - Embargoed Until 05:01 5 Nov 2009

UK Tops International List on Healthcare - Embargoed Until 05:01 5 Nov 2009

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 04 November 2009

-Majority of UK doctors rate quality of care as continually improving-

The NHS has been ranked as having one of the best primary health care systems in the world in a survey by the leading US think tank the Commonwealth Fund, published today.

In a survey of more than 10,000 primary care physicians in 11 developed countries, the NHS was rated top in a number of key areas including being the only country where the majority of doctors feel the quality of healthcare is improving.

The annual survey of international healthcare comparisons this year polled primary care doctors for their views on their health systems. The UK was rated top in several categories including:

Improvements in quality over the past three years;

Least likely to report long waiting times for patients referred for specialist care;

Managing chronic conditions with specialist teams;

Using financial incentives to reward doctors for good patient experience;

The use of patient satisfaction and experience data to improve services; and

The use of comparative data to review doctors’ clinical performance.

Speaking from Washington at the Commonwealth Fund’s 2009 international health symposium, Health Secretary Andy Burnham said:

“This is an important moment for the NHS. The journey to overhaul the quality of care over the last ten years has paid off. Clinicians now say they are confident they are treating and caring for patients in ways that match the best healthcare systems in the world. The NHS is not perfect but it has moved from poor to good and I want to see it go from good to great on the next stage of the journey.

“Primary care services are at the heart of the NHS, preventing illness, managing disease and helping people live healthier lives. Most recently our GPs have been doing a fantastic job at the forefront of our response to the swine flu outbreak starting the vaccination programme.

“Over the past few years, together with the profession, we have vastly improved access with over 75 per cent of GP practices now open longer hours and almost 100 new GP health centres across the country, open from 8am-8pm seven days a week - giving patients greater choice and flexibility.

“We will build on these great achievements, and focus on the challenge for the next decade – greater choice, more personalised and high quality care, taking the NHS from good to great.

“I would like today to pay tribute to the hard working NHS staff across the country and congratulate them for this magnificent achievement. This is a proud day for NHS staff and for the millions of patients they look after so well.”

During a three day visit to Washington the Health Secretary will also be discussing key global health challenges such as the swine flu pandemic, the health effects of climate change and the shared challenge of obesity with his US counterpart and other opposite numbers.

Notes to Editors

The Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey 2009 is published at 05:01 on 5 November 2009. The survey can be found at:

2. The 11 countries surveyed are: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Key findings from the report include:

Quality Reporting and Feedback

Asked about comparative information systems, doctors in the UK are most likely to routinely receive and review data on clinical outcomes (89%).

UK physicians (65%) were by far the most likely to report they receive data on how they compare to other practices and, along with Sweden and New Zealand doctors, the most likely to have information on patient experiences.

51% of UK physicians believe quality of care has improved in the health care system over the past three years. This is the highest of the 11 countries and in every other country the majority believes quality of care has stayed the same or got worse.

Access and Barriers to Care

Only 6% of UK physicians report major problems with the time they or their staff spend getting patients needed medication or treatment due to insurance restrictions.

22% of UK doctors report that their patients often face long waits to see a specialist - the lowest rates in the survey.

After-Hours Care Outside the Emergency Room A large majority of doctors in the UK, (89%) report after-hour provision for patients.

Health Information Technology

A very high proportion (96%) of UK primary care doctors report using electronic medical records (EMRs).

Use of Care Teams and Systems to Care for Patients with Chronic Illness

Teams that include health professionals such as nurses serve an important role in managing care, especially for chronic conditions. The survey results indicate that use of teams is widespread in the UK (98%), joint highest with Sweden.

Tracking Medical Errors

The study finds that at 56% UK physicians were most likely to say they have processes to identify "adverse events" and take follow up action that they think work well.

Financial Incentives to improve Quality

A significant majority of doctors in the UK (89%) report some type of extra financial incentive or target support to improve primary care capacity.

4. Health Secretary Andy Burnham will be giving a speech at the Urban Institute in Washington on Wednesday 4 November 2009. The speech will look at the next stage of NHS Reform, the building of a preventative and people-centred health service and learning from each other on integrated care and early diagnosis.

5. For copies of the speech and interview requests please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221

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