PharmacoEconomics & Outcomes News 784, p6 - 12 Aug 2017
UK health spend "about average"
according to new data
Revised data indicates that the amount the UK spends
on health in comparison with other countries has been
underestimated, according to a BMJ Analysis article.
Based on the latest internationally agreed accounting
revisions designed to provide more comparable
spending figures between countries, data from the UK
Office for National Statistics and the Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
showed that the total health spend in 2014 in the UK
was 9.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), rather than
the 8.7% previously reported. The main reasons for the
increase with the new accounting methods were capital
spend exclusions, and the addition of long-term care,
health-related social care and payments to carers.
Preventative care was still included in the figures, but
the article noted that "the new accounting methods
further blur the line between health and healthcare".
The updated figures result in the UK having "about
average" overall health spending compared with the
other 14 original countries of the European Union
(EU-14), which ranged from 11.1% or more of the GDP
for Sweden, France and Germany, to 9% or less of the
GDP for Portugal, Greece and Luxembourg. The authors
noted that "this is a major revision from the UK’s
position with the old definition, under which its health
spending as a percentage of GDP was below the EU-14
and OECD averages". This equated to an average
absolute annual health spend per person of $US3675 in
the UK, which is $294 below the EU-14 average, but
considerably closer to this average than previously
calculated. The revised 2014 figures "suggest the UK is
spending about what might be expected; just 0.7% less
per capita than expected given the size of its GDP".
However, "just as previously being below average was
not sufficient reason to increase spending, now being
average is not sufficient reason to withhold spending",
noted the authors. The health spending of other
countries was only ever a rough point of reference to
guide domestic decisions, with a health spend that
equates to the average "not synonymous with the most
desirable level of funding".
The authors concluded that "the new accounting
methods, while changing the UK’s standing
internationally, do not change the reality of spending
levels within the UK. A tough reality that
providers of health and social care - will not be eased by
changes in definitions or accounting methods".
Individual countries will need to consider a combination
of technical and political factors to inform their own
decisions about future public health and social care
Appleby J, et al. Keeping up with the Johanssons: How does UK health spending
compare internationally? BMJ : 3 Aug 2017. Available from: URL: https://
PharmacoEconomics & Outcomes News 12 Aug 2017 No. 7841173-5503/17/0784-0001/$14.95 Adis © 2017 Springer International Publishing AG. All rights reserved