Page last updated at 05:13 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 06:13 UK
The NHS in numbers: Then and now

The NHS provides one of the starkest illustrations of how devolution has affected the way public services are administered and provided in the UK.

Everything from spending to patient choice now differ from nation to nation.

Bar chart comparing NHS spend per head of population in England,m Scotland, Wales and Northeren Ireland
Spending on the NHS has risen threefold in the past 10 years. But that does not mean people do not have to pay for some services, such as prescriptions. And despite extra money being invested, spending per head still differs around the UK.

Prescriptions charges across the UK

  • England - 7.10
  • Scotland - Phased out by 2011
  • Wales - No charge since 2007
  • N Ireland - Frozen/under review


England Scotland Wales N Ireland
Extensive charging Limited to 3 a day Being phased out between 1 April 2008 and 2011 Free for cancer and dialysis patients and relatives of critically ill patients. Otherwise, hospitals charge locally


Bar chart comparing hospital-acquired infection rates in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Hospital-acquired infection data is from surveys of patients in acute hospitals in 2006.

The survey in Scotland was carried out in a slightly different way and over a longer period.

The figures are for all hospital infections, including MRSA and C-difficile.

Bar chart comparing life expectancy in the four nations

Bar chart comparing life expectancy in Glasgow City and Kensington and Chelsea
Bar chart comparing target waiting times from GP referral to to treatment in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Bar charts comparing death rates from lung cancer and coronary heart disease in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Bar chart comparing numbers of GPs per 10,000 population in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

There is a distinct divide between the health policies from nation to nation, with England perhaps being the most marked with its use of market-based reforms.

In terms of patient choice in England, any hospital providing treatment at NHS standards and prices is available. In the rest of the UK the GP usually decides on the hospital referral.


England Scotland Wales N Ireland
Running GP services One pilot independent treatment centre began in Tayside Aug 2007 Minimal current use Data not yet available
Operations in independent treatment centres No further use of private sector - Scots govt Plaid Cymru/Labour committed to phasing out by 2011
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