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Thursday 19th April 2018

Health service better in France

7th July 2008

Greater investment in the French health service by its government has resulted in no waiting lists and greater access to treatment.


According to the Organisation of Economic Development (OECD), there are just 2.4 doctors for every 1,000 people in the UK population, while France has 3.4 doctors for every thousand people.

The French have 3.7 acute care beds per 1,000 people, whereas Britain can only boast 3.1 beds.

Access to physicians and hospitals is easier than in the United Kingdom, with no waiting lists for surgery or consultant appointments, according to Valerie Paris, a health economist at the OECD.

Under the French system, patients pay for some treatment up front, and claim back the cost from a compulsory social insurance scheme.

But French patients have access to more care, ultimately, because their government is willing to invest more money.

France spends around £2,250 per person on healthcare, compared with a comparable figure of £1,799 in Britain which covers both the private and NHS sectors.

Money has been steadily pouring into the NHS since it was found on an annual budget of £280 million in 1948. Back then, the health service took up just 3.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That proportion has since risen to 7.6% of GDP, with a total budget of £106 billion.

But the proportion in the United Kingdom is still lower than the average for EU countries.

Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said some governments have not been spending enough on healthcare, having instead their eye on other priorities. UK patients had missed out as a result, he said.

More investment was needed in doctors, the uptake of new drugs, new buildings and imaging, where other European countries do significantly better than the UK, he added.

And a breakdown of UK spending figures reveals that while spending on new resources for the NHS, like drugs and equipment, rose by 29% between 2001 and 2005, spending on patient care rose by just 19%.

More patient care, treatments and doctors have become available, but so have the number of staff who must be paid, and the amount of drugs which must be procured.

While higher health investment does seem to be producing better results for patients, it may be a while before British patients can dream of the sort of health service their French counterparts enjoy.


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