But does this mean the NHS is efficient or inefficient?

Apparently the National Health Service provides fewer inpatient beds for young mental health patients than many other European countries:

Child mental health: UK provision 'worse than in much of eastern Europe'

That’s not actually what has been shown. Rather:

Britain has one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds in Europe for young people struggling with serious mental health problems, EU-funded research has found.

It is lagging far behind the level of provision in many much poorer countries in eastern Europe, such as Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia, according to a study of care for troubled under-18s across the EU.

Britain has 9.4 specialist inpatient beds per 100,000 young people for those who are suffering from conditions such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. That places it 18th in a league table of the 28 EU countries, researchers say.

Germany has the most, at 64 beds per 100,000 young people, and Sweden has the least, at just 1.2 beds. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have 39.5, 31.5 and 21 beds per 100,000 under-18s.

How well we deal with child mental health problems is determined by how well we deal with child mental health problems. Not by the resources we use to deal with them.

Inputs into a process are just that, inputs. It is the result, the output, which is what we want to have a measure of for this tells us the efficiency with which we are dealing with these problems.

Say, just as an example, that Britain uses 94,000 tonnes of steel to make a railway bridge that works and works just fine. Germany uses 640,000 tonnes of steel to make a similar railway bridge that works just as well. Who is doing better in the provision of railway bridges? Well, obviously, the UK. For we either have 546,000 tonnes of steel to do something else with or even, haven’t burnt more of the dead dinosaurs to produce the steel in the first place.

If we are solving child mental health problems as well as those with more inpatient beds then we’re doing better, not worse.

We are entirely open to the idea that we’re not so solving better. Equally that we are. The insistence is just that our measure should be that output, that result, not the resources devoted to inputs.

Consider that Swedish result of some one tenth of the NHS provision. Catty remarks about climate change activists aside, is Sweden doing better or worse?

In the absence of this proper measurement we’ll have to fall back on some sort of rule of thumb. Perhaps Polly Toynbee’s cry that we should be more like Sweden is the one to use here? Or, you know, we could go and measure what it is that actually matters?