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Canada “can learn from UK reforms to primary healthcare”

27 June 2007

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Canadian policy advisers have suggested adopting some of the UK government’s NHS reforms in their own healthcare system.

In a report published today (Wednesday 27 June 2007), the Conference Board of Canada’s director of health programs argues that “the UK has shown an exemplary willingness to constantly reinvent the structure and organization of its NHS.

“This reform is based on the premise that new spending must be accompanied by efforts to improve productivity of the health care workforce and improve the performance of the system.”

The report, The UK Way, Spending and Measuring in the National Health Service: Lessons for Canada, states:

“Under the Labour government of prime minister Tony Blair, the UK made an unprecedented investment in the NHS over the past decade to bring its spending more in line with the average in other European Union countries.

“Despite this investment, fiscal deficits have emerged in some regions of the country and the sustainability of the system is being questioned. But compared to Canada, the UK has a greater understanding of the value it has received from its investments in NHS reforms.”

The report praises key elements of the NHS reforms, arguing that the capacity of primary care trusts (PCTs) to “control 80% of the NHS budget” is a measure “far more extensive than anything Canadian provinces have envisaged.”

The Conference Board also commended the adoption of private sector practices, “such as collecting self-reported health data from patients before and after care. While the merits of ‘private’ healthcare provision remain controversial in both the UK and Canada, opportunities to use best practices should not be ignored”, it said.

It also praised the UK’s investment in staff training, and said UK health policy enabled “comprehensive performance management and benchmarking … by a significant investment in information technology and the collection of performance measurements.”

Conference Board of Canada