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NHS 'fails to match Euro standards'

Thousands of people may be dying unnecessarily in an NHS that "is too centralised, overly-managed by politicians and is too insulated from competition", a lobby group has said.

Analysis of mortality figures by the TaxPayers' Alliance suggests almost 12,000 extra deaths occurred in the UK in 2008 than would have been the case if the UK had matched the average rates for several European countries.

It said healthcare in Britain fails to match up to the standards of its European neighbours "not because it is underfunded".

In a foreword to the report, Nick Bosanquet, professor of health policy at Imperial College London and chairman of a private consultancy firm, said: "In this latest review the UK rate of mortality amenable to healthcare in 2008 was 33% higher than the average rate of the Netherlands, France and Spain leading to 11,749 more deaths.

"Such evidence does not affect deep emotional loyalty but it should surely prevent the kind of uncritical endorsement of the current system which we have heard so much of from the British Medical Association. They are uncritically endorsing a system which is not delivering rather than showing any sense of urgency in seeking explanations."

Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Billions of pounds have been thrown at the NHS but the additional spending has made no discernable difference to the long-term pattern of falling mortality. This is a colossal waste of lives and money.

"We need to learn lessons from European countries with healthcare systems that don't suffer from the same degree of political management, monopolistic provision and centralisation."

Health minister Simon Burns said: "This is exactly why we need to modernise the NHS; to improve results for patients, and deliver a world-class health service. The principles of our modernisation plans - patient power, clinical leadership, and a focus on reducing bureaucracy and waste to make every penny count - will help drive up standards to match the best in Europe."

A spokesman for the BMA said: "Comparing different healthcare systems meaningfully is always difficult. However, it's worth noting that a recent in-depth study of healthcare in seven industrialised countries ranked the UK's system as the most efficient, and also rated it highly on quality and access."

"Of course, the NHS should not be immune from criticism, and should always be seeking to improve. However, there is little or no evidence to support the Taxpayers' Alliance's call for more competition."

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