Survival rates for different cancers are improving in the UK, but most of the other 33 nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) achieve higher rates, says a new report.

Also, while the UK does well in avoiding hospital admissions for people with uncontrolled diabetes, it could improve the treatment of patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the OECD's annual Health at a Glance report.

The five-year relative survival rate for breast cancer in the UK during 2004-9 was 81%, up from 75% during 1997-2002, but still lower than the OECD average of 84%, says the study. For cervical cancer the rate was 59%, also lower than the OECD average of 66%, and for colorectal cancer the UK's five-year survival rate during 2004-9 was 54% for female patients and 53% for males, compared with an Organisation average of 62% for women and 60% for men.

Also, avoidable hospital admissions for asthma complications and COPD are higher in the UK than the OECD average; for asthma admissions the rate was 74 per 100,000 adults in 2009 (OECD average 52) and for COPD it was 213 (OECD average 198). 

On the other hand, admissions in the UK for uncontrolled diabetes are less than half the OECD average, at 24 versus 50 admissions per 100,000 population.

The report also notes that in 2009, for the first time, the share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) allocated to health in the UK exceeded the OECD average, reaching 9.8% compared with an average of 9.6%.

The share of GDP allocated to health has increased strongly in the UK over past decade, particularly during the 2008-9 recession, rising from 8.4% in 2007 to 9.8% in 2009, it comments.

UK spending on health per person in 2009 was US$3,487, adjusted for purchasing parity, which is also slightly higher than the OECD average of $3,233, and per capita spending grew 4.8% in real terms in the UK during 2000-9 (Organisation average 4%).

84% of health spending in the UK was funded by public sources in 2009, which is well above the Organisation average of 72% and among the highest share in OECD nations.

Overall, the new edition of Health at a Glance says that medical care is improving in OECD member countries, but better prevention and management of chronic diseases is needed to reduce costs.