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UK health improves but with major disparities

The health of the UK population is improving with significant increases in life expectancy but there are major disparities around the country, according to a report published by the Healthcare Commission.

The State Of Healthcare In England And Wales addresses whether health organisations are getting the basics right in terms of safety and quality – and whether improvements have been made.

It reported that the disparities were to be found  particularly in poorer areas where there were often fewer GPs.

The report made other findings, which included the following:

* Patients were positive about hospital services overall but some organisations performed poorly. Beneath the headline figures there were concerns about aspects of care such as dignity and privacy;

* There were dramatic improvements in waiting times but there were hidden waits for some services, which were not measured and therefore difficult to address;

* NHS trusts were performing better overall on quality of services, but the performance of primary care trusts (PCTs) had declined, with many not getting to grips with the needs of their communities so as to provide services to match;

* There was progress towards a stronger culture of safety and grounds for cautious optimism in reducing health care-associated infection. But trust boards needed to show stronger leadership;

* New figures showed that more independent health care providers met core standards, mirroring a similar trend among NHS trusts. But there were concerns about compliance among independent providers of mental health care;

* The NHS often failed to meet the needs of children and young people and there were concerns about other groups requiring specialist care, such as people with mental health problems and with learning difficulties;

* There were dramatic improvements in responding to the big killers ­ cancer, circulatory and respiratory disease ­ but five-year survival rates for cancer, and mortality rates for respiratory disease, were worse than in other comparable countries.

Healthcare Commission