HomeNewsUK Sees a 39% Increase in Private Care Due to Declining NHS Outcomes
UK Sees a 39% Increase in Private Care Due to Declining NHS Outcomes

UK Sees a 39% Increase in Private Care Due to Declining NHS Outcomes

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The National Health Service (NHS) may be the UK public’s single greatest point of pride. But a series of recent reports have shed damning light on the reality of British health outcomes under this system. has collated this research, finding evidence that a combination of overspending on healthcare and underperforming on healthcare performance threatens to further increase health inequality.

Top findings:

– Healthcare expenditure is growing faster in the UK than any other developed nation – yet produces the second worst health outcomes. Only the USA has a lower life expectancy and more deaths from treatable illness.

– COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem, with a huge backlog of cases in the NHS limiting access to healthcare.

– The result is likely to be a huge increase in health inequality, with 6 in 7 patients unable to afford private treatment.

UK healthcare expenditure has skyrocketed

Spending on healthcare in the UK has grown dramatically in recent years. Of the ten countries for which the OECD has published provisional data for health expenditure for 2021, the UK’s spend (11.9% of GDP) was the fourth highest.

However, the increase in healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP between 2019-2021 was the largest. This is even clearer across a longer period: UK healthcare spending has grown an eye watering 43% since 2011 – the fastest growth as a proportion of GDP in the developed world.

But increased spending has produced worse results

Despite increased spending, the UK has seen a decline in healthcare outcomes. While the UK saw a fall in life expectancy of 0.2 years between 2010 and 2020, 19 other developed nations saw an increase of 0.8 years. Today, the UK’s life expectancy is over a year less than other countries – the second worst in the developed world, behind the USA.

Some of this can be explained by a relatively poor response to COVID-19 – but not all of it. The UK also reports the worst five-year survival rates for colon cancer; the second worst for lung and stomach cancer; and amongst the worst for breast cancer.

What is the cost of life?

For every 100,000 people in the UK, 75 people are estimated to die from a treatable disease. However, among other countries studied, the average figure was 61 – meaning simply matching the performance of other health systems could save over 9,300 lives each year.

This is not the product of lifestyle choices,either. The UK ranked 9th out of 12 in terms of average annual alcohol per capita consumption, and the 4th highest rate of obesity. However, it boasts the 7th lowest proportion of daily smokers, and the lowest average rate of tobacco consumption – suggesting that health outcomes would be roughly average if based purely on individual lifestyle.  

Health inequality will continue to widen

In the last 3 months of 2021, the UK saw a 39% increase in patients opting to self-fund treatment. With the NHS’s backlog reportedly reaching 6.6 million patients in May 2022, this is inevitable. Given that 6 in 7 patients report they cannot afford to pay for private healthcare, current conditions are likely to be a large increase in health inequality. 

Such inequalities were already apparent: pre-pandemic reports showed that life expectancy was 8 years lower in economically deprived areas than in wealthy regions. But early evidence suggests this increased at its fastest rates on record in 2020 – and a growing disparity in access to healthcare will surely only speed this up. 

“This research shows that spending more on healthcare does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. But what is most concerning is the apparent link between increased spending and increased inequality.”

Jonathan Merry, CEO of


Toby McInnis
Toby McInnis
Toby McInnis is a writer based in London. He works with some of the fastest growing startups in the world, covering industries as diverse as finance, technology, logistics and healthcare.