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NHS reforms not justified – expert

28 January 2011

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Death rates from cancer are falling in the UK, despite the health secretary’s claims that the NHS needs reform to tackle such health issues.

John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund think tank, claims that between 1980 and 2006, the UK saw the largest fall in death rates from heart attacks.

He predicted that if this trend continues, the country could have a lower death rate from heart attacks than countries such as France by as early as next year.

It comes after Andrew Lansley said the UK’s outcomes when it comes to health issues such as heart attack and cancer are among the poorest in Europe, despite similar spending, and this was one of the reasons behind the need for restructuring the NHS.

Mr Appleby said: “Comparing just one year – and with a country with the lowest death rate for myocardial infarction (heart attack) in Europe – reveals only part of the story.

“Not only has the UK had the largest fall in death rates from myocardial infarction between 1980 and 2006 of any European country, if trends over the past 30 years continue, it will have a lower death rate than France as soon as 2012.

“These trends have been achieved with a slower rate of growth in healthcare spending in the UK compared with France and at lower levels of spending every year for the past half century.”

In 2008, the UK spent 8.7% of its gross domestic product on health compared with 11.2% for France – 28% more, Mr Appleby said.

He urged caution when interpreting figures for health outcomes because the “trajectory for many causes of death swoops up and down over decades – often linked to changes in lifestyle behaviours rather than spending on healthcare”.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

King’s Fund