Despite the financial crisis, healthcare in Europe continues to improve, but the UK still languishes around mid-table, hit by issues such as poor access to cancer drugs, according to a new 36-nation review.

The Netherlands once again comes top of the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI)  which ranks systems on 48 indicators covering six areas  - patient rights and information, accessibility of treatment/waiting times, outcomes, range and reach of services, prevention and accessibility of pharmaceuticals.

The Dutch system scored 898 points out of a potential 1,000, followed by Switzerland, Norway, Finland and Denmark. England and Scotland came in at 14th and 16th respectively.

The report, compiled by Sweden-based think tank Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP), says NHS England offers better patient information while in Scotland, waiting is generally shorter. Treatment outcomes are equal, but show a poor Scottish performance on depression, while “prevention works a little better in England, in spite of joint problems with high alcohol consumption and failing vaccination for children”.

The EHCI patient organisation survey confirms the claims from the English NHS “that the very large resources invested in reducing waiting list problems healthcare have paid off, which is the case with Scotland as well”. However, the UK “is still definitely a part of European ‘waiting list territory’, warned Arne Bjornberg, HCP chairman and head of research.

The report concludes that efforts to clean up hospitals to reduce resistant infections “have also paid off” for both England and Scotland and “this radical reduction is a unique performance for a European country and should continue”. It also recommends that for both countries, “the poor access to new cancer drugs should be improved”.