Tuesday, 14 December 2010

NHS spend and effectiveness

The BBC have a story today about http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11984036 NHS cuts
Government spending plans will test the NHS and social services in England to the limit, according to a report by the Commons Health Select Committee.
A month or so ago there was a rather neat XKCD webcomic http://xkcd.com/808/ about how if craxy phenomenum worked the companies would be making loads of money out of it. One of the examples was that if homeopathy worked then healthcare costs would be reduced. I thought I'd have a look to see whether this was true, and using WolframAlpha http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=japan+life+expectancy I researched healthcare expenditure, life expectancy and to what degree the state funded homeopathy. Okay, that last bit was hard to find, but I did generate this neat graph showing state health expenditure per capita by life expectancy.
It effectively shows how much value for money the UK gets compared to other countries.
We can see that America get's well ripped off, spending more than twice as much than the UK, but with lower life expectancy. And Japan, well, they spend a wee bit less than the UK, but get a good three years on average more life than we do.
Anyhoo, I reckon that this graph show's we're getting crap value for money from the NHS. It doesn't say that NHS cuts will result is shorter life expectancy, just that other countries who spend the same amount are spending that money more effectively to prolong their citizen's lives.
Pleas from the NHS for that lives will be lost unless they get more money should be ignored.


  1. It's interesting data, but one problem is that healthcare has little bearing on life expectancy. It's a mixture of lifestyle and genetics that has the most bearing.

    The Japanese tend to eat lots of fish which is very good for you, while Americans don't exactly have a good diet.

  2. I feel that you should probably correct the exchange rates, showing this all in US$ is probably going to skew it to reflect the differing costs of living in these places.

    I'd add a bit more data to the graph. I'd add the average salary of the staff of the hospital.

    I'd divide the $$ costs by the basic monthly cost of living in that country.

    Then the graph would really reflect the domestic expense of healthcare.

  3. Reading posts like this make me a bit sad and quite frankly unimpressed. It's a bit like not being able to see the wood for the trees banging on about cuts and efficiency savings, apart from the fact that you contradict yourself by stating that the US are being ripped off (by their private medical firms). In fact as pointed out by Takagi above, there are various other factors which have a bearing on life expectancy than spend on Healthcare.

    In my view, you are contributing far too much time on scrutinising government spending, and less on research into alternative models of health care, which would rely less on the government intervention which you so detest, but more on a holistic and community action. Would you leave your elderly parent to the NHS and then complain about the cost, or are you willing to give time to overseeing this yourself? This is just one of the dilemmas that probably everyone must face in modern life, and yet when you fail to consider these very personal issues, analyses such as the one you have presented fail to provide a complete picture. Its a cop out to rely on graphs that support your findings and ignore the ones that don't.