UK spending on healthcare lowest of G7 countries

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 02 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3063
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

The United Kingdom is spending less on healthcare as a share of its gross domestic product than all other G7 countries apart from Italy, which spends the same, new figures have shown.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK’s total expenditure on healthcare in 2012 was £144.5bn (€175bn; $245bn), 9.2% of GDP.1

The largest portion of this (£121.3bn or 7.7% of GDP) came from the public purse. The remaining £23.2bn was from private sources, including individual spending on healthcare, private health insurance, and private sector capital.

As a proportion of GDP, healthcare spending was 17.7% in the United States, 11.6% in France, 11.3% in Germany, 11.2% in Canada, 9.6% in Japan, and around 9.2% in Italy.

Although growth in healthcare spending in the UK was strong from 1997 to 2009—with an average annual growth rate of 8%, growth has slowed since 2009 to an average of 1.6% a year.

The ONS analysis also shows that private healthcare expenditure fell by 1.4% from 2011 to 2012 while public healthcare expenditure rose by 2.5%.

The figures come as a report from the health think tank the King’s Fund forecasted that NHS spending as a proportion of GDP would fall to 6.1% by 2021, its lowest level since 2003.2

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health for England insisted that the government was meeting its pledge to increase the NHS budget “in real terms” and said that it would have invested an extra £12.7bn in the NHS by the end of this parliament in 2015.

She said, “These [GDP] figures reflect the fact that between 2010 and 2012 GDP expanded at a higher rate than health spending. Spending in the NHS still rose by nearly 2% in 2012.”

She added, “By taking difficult financial decisions we have been able to increase that NHS budget in real terms, with public healthcare expenditure experiencing its biggest increase since 2010.

“With an ageing population the NHS is dealing with more people than ever before, lots of whom need long term, round the clock care from dedicated health professionals, and to meet that rise in demand the NHS must continue to become more efficient while ensuring compassionate care for all in the wake of the Francis inquiry [into failings at Stafford Hospital].”


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3063


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