The joint Health Foundation and Nuffield Trust study looked at a range of performance factors in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, such as death rates and waiting times. It found that on the whole the four nations were improving, largely due to extra funding, but the rate of improvement was faster in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales than in England.
For the past five years, for instance, England has averaged 75% for ambulance response rates – answering life-threatening calls within eight minutes. However, Scotland and Northern Ireland demonstrated the best improvements, rising from 55% to 73% in the five years. Wales also rose to 68% from around 55%.
The report also found that figures for avoidable deaths rates have been improving across the UK, which is a very good sign. Rates more than halved in each country from 1990 to 2010. Despite England having the best figures, again the biggest improvements were made by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
At Fletchers, we recently conducted research into patient complaints which mirror these findings. We asked patients in the four nations if they had ever had cause to make a complaint (either formally or informally) about any aspect of the service they received from the NHS. In England, over 55% had cause to complain, while only 17% of people in Scotland and 17% in Wales did. Patients in Northern Ireland were the most happy, with only 11% having a reason to complain.
What this report indicates is that the quality of healthcare is slowly improving but the NHS in England needs to step up if it wants to make bigger improvements demonstrated in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Performance was found to rise when there was an injection of additional funding and an increase in budgets. So ultimately what this shows is that in order to continue to improve on performance we need to protect the NHS budget and continue to invest in resources and staff.