The amount the UK spends on health falls well behind that invested by European peers such as Germany and France, according to a report commissioned by the NHS Confederation.
While the UK is streaming more funds into healthcare than ever before, its expenditure as a proportion of national income lags that of Europe’s two other largest economies, conclude the report’s authors, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Health Foundation.
As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the UK is spending less on health than Germany, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Austria.
For example, data from 2016 show that the UK spend 9.5 percent of national income on health, compared to Germany’s 11.3 percent and France’s 11 percent.
According to the report, if the UK were to spend the same proportion of national income on health as Germany in the next year, this would add an extra £30 billion to the health budget.
The research also shows that the UK employs fewer doctors per head than all other EU countries, with 2.8 doctors per 1,000 people in 2015 compared to 4.1 doctors per 1,000 in Germany and 3.3 doctors per 1,000 in France.
“The choice we have to make is what sort of health and care system we are willing to pay for,” said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.
“Increasing funding through taxation in line with this report’s findings would still only take us to the lower-middle ranks of comparable European countries in terms of the amount of tax we pay.
“The evidence shows that we cannot go on running as we are. We face a choice between significant investment or a period of managed decline.”
The report is the second by the The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Health Foundation commissioned by the NHS Confederation.
The first, published last month, calculated that for the next 15 years NHS funding alone will need to increase by at least 4 percent a year - which equates to around £2,000 per UK household - to meet the needs of an ageing population and an increasing number of younger adults living with disabilities.
Last month the NHS Confederation also launched a petition on Parliament’s website asking the Government to commit to a long-term funding plan for health and social care to the year 2035, to help address “crippling effects” of rising demand, underfunding and workforce shortages.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Guardian that the prime minister is committed to delivering a long-term funding plan for the NHS, and that there should be a "significant" budget increase to coincide with its 70th birthday in July.