The UK's health system remains "mediocre" and despite increased funding is slipping further behind that of most of its Western European neighbours, the annual survey of EU healthcare has found.
The UK was ranked 17th out of 29 coutries in the Euro Health Consumer Index for 2007 issued yesterday in Brussels by Health Consumer Powerhouse. In 2006 the UK was in 15th place.
Austria topped the league, with 2005 winner the Netherlands coming second. France, which topped the list in 2006, came third, followed by Switzerland, Germany and Sweden. Poorer countries such as the Czech Republic, Estonia and Cyprus were ranked higher than the UK.
The index rated 27 performance indicators in five categories to offer a maximum 1,000 points. The UK scored 581 points putting it in the same division as Hungary, Italy and Slovenia. Winner Austria scored 806 points.
The survey looked at five areas of healthcare - waiting times for common treatments, results of treatment, access to medicines, patients' rights and information, and "generosity of the system". Although the UK leads the way in patient access to information through NHS direct, a patient ombudsman and quality rankings for providers such as scorecards for every hospital, it fell down in the other key areas.
The poor rate of five-year cancer survival in the UK, the high level of MRSA infection in hospitals, long waiting times and the postcode lottery for treatment were particularly criticised.
Dr Arne Björnberg, Euro Health Consumer Index Director, said: "Patients in the UK have the right to expect more. Despite substantial funding increases, the UK still is a mediocre overall performer."
Mr Johan Hjertqvist, president of the Health Consumer Powerhouse, said the UK's "post code lottery" on drugs, including those for cancer, was unacceptable". "Access has to be for all, and should be rapidly out in place," he said.
The full rankings were:
15 Czech Republic