Envy of the world?


According to ICM polling for the BBC, 40 percent of Britons list the risk of potentially deadly infections such as MRSA and C–difficile as their main concern with the NHS. They are right to be worried:

  • One in nine patients admitted to hospital contract an infection during their stay. MRSA accounts for 45 percent of hospital-acquired infections in the UK, compared with less than 5 percent in the Netherlands and 1 percent in Sweden and Iceland.
  • Only half of inpatients surveyed by the Picker Institute regarded their ward as clean.
  • The number of hospitals not complying with the Healthcare Commission's standards on infection control, decontamination and hygiene went up by 6.8 percent, 1.7 percent and 2.5 percent respectively in 2006/7. A third of hospitals failed to comply with at least one of these standards.
  • The number of deaths caused by MRSA has risen by 39 percent since 2001/2.
  • EU-wide figures on MRSA infections show that Britons are 45 times more likely to get MRSA than Swedes and Icelanders.
  • Between 2004 and 2006 deaths caused by C-difficile increased by 69 percent. Only one in four hospitals has a C-difficile isolation ward, even though this is considered the best way to stop the spread of the infection.

The strange thing is that 81 percent of people surveyed also said they were fairly or very proud of the NHS. 51 percent believed the NHS was the envy of the world. One simple question – why?

Healthcare spending now consumes 9-10 percent of GDP every year, and yet the UK has one of the highest levels of avoidable mortality in Europe.  We spend more on cancer treatment than any other European nation, yet still have poor survival rates compared with Western Europe, the US and Canada. We're the only OECD country to show no improvement in stroke deaths since 2000. NHS patients wait much longer for treatment than their European neighbours, and are denied new medicines and treatments that are routine elsewhere.

The NHS is nothing to be proud of. The sooner people realize that, the better.