- IPPR found quality of care nationally has got worse despite increased spending
- UK continues to fall behind other nations, with cancer survival ‘stubbornly lower’
Around 240,000 fewer people would have died in the UK over the past decade if avoidable mortality had matched European levels, a report claims.
Long waits for healthcare and a failure to tackle the likes of obesity, couch potato lifestyles and smoking have fuelled the deaths, the Institute for Public Policy Research says.
The think tank found the quality of care nationally has got worse despite increased spending, leading the country to ‘spend more to get less’.
Meanwhile the UK continues to fall further behind other developed nations, with cancer survival in particular ‘stubbornly lower’.
The IPPR warns this trajectory is ‘clearly not sustainable’ and is calling on the government to take urgent action to deliver better value for money for taxpayers.
Reforming the NHS to change it from a ‘sickness service’ to a ‘prevention service’ would ‘avert killer costs’ and end ‘second-rate care’, it adds.
The new 90 page report comes after the IPPR Commission on Health and Prosperity conducted an audit of health and care services.
It found poor health is costing livelihoods as well as lives.
Long-term sickness has become a ‘serious fiscal threat’, with the number of people out of work due to poor health at an all-time high of 2.6million.
The report says: ‘There is no road to prosperity for this nation without tackling the tide of sickness head-on.
‘The number of deaths that could have been avoided with timely healthcare or public health interventions is much higher in the UK than in all other comparable European nations.
‘We estimate that if the UK had an avoidable mortality rate similar to those in comparable European countries, around 240,000 fewer people would have died in the decade from 2010.’
The audit found cancer survival is lower in the UK than in almost all other advanced economies, while deaths from dementia are ‘radically higher’.
UK patients are less likely than those in other countries to be involved in decisions about their care or have enough time with their doctor.
And fewer than one in six patients with a preferred GP get continuity of care with them.
Furthermore, the communication skills of British family doctors are said to have gone from ranking among the best in the developed world to ‘near the bottom of the pack’.
It comes as patients face an 8am scramble for GP appointments, practices are yet to return to pre-pandemic rates of face-to-face consultations and NHS waiting lists stand at a record 7.6million people.
The report notes requests for adult social care support have risen 10 per cent since 2016, but the number receiving local authority support has fallen by 4 per cent.
And nearly six in ten people aged 17 to 24 with a probable mental health disorder are not getting treatment from health services.
Dr Parth Patel, lead author of the report and an NHS doctor, said: ‘We spend more years in sickness than ever before, yet it has never been harder to access timely healthcare.
‘The NHS, world-leading not so long ago, has now fallen far behind international peers.
‘With political will, health services in this country can once again be world-leading.’
On the post-pandemic trajectory, government healthcare spending in England is on course to rise from 9 per cent of GDP to 11.2 per cent of GDP by 2033/34.
However, the IPPR says its reform proposals could save taxpayers up to £205billion over the next decade – with the annual saving worth the equivalent of the current UK defence budget by 2033/34.
Its ideas include offering a wider range of health services at GP surgeries, making personal care free so dementia patients do not bear ‘catastrophic’ costs and cancelling student debts for health and care workers to make the jobs more attractive.
Lord Ara Darzi, co-chair of the IPPR Commission on Health and Prosperity and a former health minister, said: ‘The NHS and social care system is vital to our individual and national health and prosperity.
‘Too many people are struggling to get high quality care, when they need it most.
‘As a result, there are growing calls for us to change our ‘free at the point of need’ system.
‘But now is not the time to abandon the principles which underpin the NHS.
‘Instead, we must renew and extend them in order to deliver better health, a stronger economy and a fairer society.
‘This report sets out a plan to achieve this.’
Lord James Bethell, a former Conservative health minister, said: ‘Sick Britain is costing us our lives, our livelihoods and harming the UK economy.
‘If we want to change course, we must stop pretending that the answers are always more hospitals and more acute staff.
‘Instead, we must start taking action to reduce demand and need for healthcare, through prevention.
‘A mission for a healthy Britain, that targets the concurrent epidemics of obesity, gambling, addiction and online harm is a precondition for any sustainable, effective National Health Service in the 21st century.’
Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘This report makes plain the serious consequences of failing to properly invest in health and social care.
‘If the UK had matched the dementia mortality rates of our European counterparts, 180,000 people might not have died of dementia between 2010 and 2020.
‘We hugely welcome the IPPR report’s pragmatic and constructive recommendations on care reform, from a social care guarantee that will offer free personal care and drive up the quality of providers through ethical commissioning, to a new deal for health and care workers that would see all care workers paid the real living wage and provided with appropriate training and support for their roles.’
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations, said: ‘Investment that keeps people out of hospital and preventing ill health will save money in the long-term, support the economy, and help secure a sustainable, flourishing future for the NHS.’