Wednesday, 26 August 2009

"Universal Healthcare Systems Are Better"

A fascinating review of public attitudes to healthcare systems has recently been released by Gallup, and it provides good news for both universal healthcare systems generally and the NHS specifically.

Gallup compared public attitudes to healthcare among those OECD countries with a universal healthcare system and those without. They found that the average satisfaction with the availability of quality healthcare in one's own area was 79% in the 22 universal healthcare system countries, but only 66% in the 8 non-universal healthcare countries. In addition, on average, the public in the former are more likely to have confidence in their national medical or healthcare systems (73% confident vs. 60%).

The cross country analysis also finds that in most countries people are more positive about their local healthcare system than their perceptions of the national system. This has been a widely recognised feature in England for some time - and not just in healthcare. According to the Gallup analysis this "perceptions gap" is highest in Germany and the US. However, there are exceptions, for example in Finland the public are more likely to be positive about their national rather than their local system. These findings of course beg several questions, including what sort of gap is desired or should we aim for no real gap in perceptions, as is the case in countries such as France, Sweden and Ireland? And to what extent are the differences (or lack of differences) due to differing levels of service delivery, media coverage, public scepticism about how their own personal experience reflects national reality, or the effectiveness of nationwide branding strategies?

In the UK, 73% of the public have confidence in the NHS nationally - same as the average of all 22 universal healthcare countries in the OECD. In total, 18 of the 30 OECD countries have lower ratings for their national systems than in the UK. In terms of satisfaction with the availability of local care the NHS does even better - 22 OECD countries have the same or lower ratings than the 85% satisfaction in the UK.

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