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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 July, 2005, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
'Disparities' in UK's healthcare
By Adam Brimelow
BBC News health correspondent

Hospital ward
The report compares NHS services around the UK
An independent report has highlighted big disparities in the performance of the NHS across the UK.

The Nuffield Trust report is the first to assess the health service UK-wide since devolution.

The report highlights a growing health gap between rich and poor, and an "unrelenting rise" in cases of the superbug MRSA.

It also found waits for operations are longer in Wales and Northern Ireland than in England and Scotland.

We will therefore look at this report closely
Department of Health spokeswoman

The report shows that in September 2004 7% of patients in Scotland and 9% of patients in England had waited for more than six months for an operation. In Wales the figure was a massive 36%.

It also looks at individual clinical proceedures. For instance, not a single hospital in Wales is meeting the target of giving clot busting drugs to heart attack patients with 60 minutes of the time of call to the emergency services.

The report contains more than a 160 pages of charts with summaries that assess and compare services across the UK, and with other developed countries.

As well as the effectiveness of healthcare services, it looks at access to treatment, resourcing, safety, and disparities between different parts of the UK.

The data will be updated regularly to provide policy-makers and patients with the latest information.

The report attempts to rationalise the often-conflicting information about how the health service is doing.

'Basis for improvements'

The Health Foundation, an independent research charity, says the report will be hugely influential and important.

Stephen Thornton, the foundation's chief executive, said: "It's the first time anything like this had been done - giving a clear picture of how the NHS is doing."

He said that the foundation would invest 2.5m over the next five years to enable the report to be updated online -to be used as a benchmark by policy-makers, patients and the media.

Mr Thornton added that the Health Foundation would also develop the report's findings to assess the issue of value for money - whether the recent big increases in NHS funding had been well-spent.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We welcome the report which outlines some impressive successes in improving the quality of healthcare in the UK.

"There are significant benefits from knowing this information as it provides a basis for improving the quality of healthcare and performance.

"We will therefore look at this report closely, particularly as in some instances the data used from different sources presents a conflicting picture of performance."

Thumbs up for foundation trusts
05 Jul 05 |  Health

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