An increased injection of funds into the National Health Service over the least year has failed to stop healthcare performance from slipping further down the European league table, according to a report by Health Consumer Powerhouse.

The company, which describes itself as “the European do-tank for better healthcare”, launched the 2007 European Consumer Health Index in Brussels this week, and it paints a rather disappointing picture of the state of healthcare in Britain when pitted against its peers on the continent.

Of the 29 countries in the league (27 European Union member states and Norway and Switzerland), the UK came in at number 17, slipping two places from last year’s ranking and falling behind countries such as the Czech Republic and Estonia. Austria was number one in the table, with The Netherlands and France taking second and third place, respectively.

In five categories, covering 27 performance indicators, the UK racked up 581 points out of a potential 1,000, a far cry away from the 806 achieved by Austria, putting the nation closer to Hungary, Italy and Slovenia in terms of performance.

According to the report, UK healthcare remains mediocre and, despite “class-leading performance in patient information”, the system falls down on other major key indicators of quality, including waiting times.

Praise for patient info

On the upside, Britain’s healthcare system was applauded for being at the forefront of patient access to information, “via NHS direct, a patient ombudsman and quality rankings for providers such as scorecards for every hospital”, it said.

Nevertheless, the report slams the country for failing its patients on longer than necessary waiting times, high rates of MRSA infection, and poor access to new treatments, especially in cancer.

“Patients in the UK have the right to expect more. Despite substantial funding increases, UK still is a mediocre overall performer”, commented Dr Arne Bjornberg, Euro Health Consumer Index Director. “It may be that this represents the end of the road for the rationing approach which the UK has pursued,” she added.