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UK health system is the 'most efficient'

The UK's health system is the most efficient, a study of seven industrialised countries said today.

Britain also scored highly on quality of care and access to care, the Commonwealth Fund report found, but came second to last for "long, healthy, productive lives".

Overall the UK's system was ranked second - behind Holland but ahead of Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and the United States in last place.

More than 27,000 patients and primary care doctors were surveyed across all seven countries over the last three years for the study. Other criteria included safe care, timeliness of care, and equity - or access regardless of social circumstances.

Efficiency was measured examining total national expenditures on health as a percent of gross domestic product, as well as the amount spent on health administration and insurance, ranking the UK top.

The report also said the UK outperformed the other countries on six of the 10 chronic care management indicators, suggesting it may be down to "the major push made by the UK government to implement health information technology".

In relation to health care access, it found: "The UK has relatively short waiting times for basic medical care and non-emergency access to services after hours, but has longer waiting times for specialist care and elective, non-emergency surgery."

But Britain came last when measured for life expectancy at age 60. The UK's was 22.5 years, well behind leading nation Australia with 24.6 years.

"The US and UK had much higher death rates in 2003 from conditions amenable to medical care than some of the other countries, for example rates 25% to 50% higher than Canada and Australia," the report said. said.

The US consistently underperformed in most areas, according to the US-based Commonwealth Fund's study.

This was despite the fact that the US health system was found to be the most costly in the world - 7,290 US dollars (£4,926) per head compared to 2,992 dollars (£2,021) for the UK.