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A lot of papers talked about the NHS’s worsening finances and how it was failing to keep up with increasing demand for services. Some discussed a proposal for perhaps charging £10 for appointments and how if they did it might be the beginnings of a slippery slope. ‘

It is worth remembering , before we panic, that £500 million, although it sounds a lot, is only 0.5 % of the NHS budget which is over 100 billion. Many companies would be pleased to miss their target budget by such a narrow margin and that last year the NHS delivered a £330 million surplus. No need to panic and start charging yet I would suggest.

The papers and politicians often talk about the NHS as if it is failing but the facts show the opposite. Yes there are challenges. We have an ageing population, probably the most unhealthy population in Europe [highest obesity, high alcohol intake and high smoking rates]. Despite this in June 2014 the NHS was declared the best healthcare system in the world  by an international panel of experts who rated its care superior to countries which spend far more on health.

The report, produced by the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington-based foundation respected around the world,  examined an array of evidence about performance in the 11 most developed countries, including detailed data from patients, doctors and the World Health Organisation.

The same study declared healthcare provision in the US as the worst of the 11 countries it looked at. America denies care to many patients in need because they do not have health insurance and is also the poorest at saving the lives of people who fall ill, it found.

“The United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency,” Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the health service, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less.