70 years of the NHS in death data
After launching in 1948, this year the NHS turns 70. With around 600,000 people in the UK dying each year, and around 270 deaths a day in London alone, within its life-span the NHS has seen as much death as it’s saved lives. To celebrate its anniversary, we look at some of the death data on the NHS.
How much death has the NHS seen?
The NHS deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. The sheer amount of people passing through NHS hospital doors means that any sound overview of how well the NHS has dealt with death needs to take into consideration the great work it does by simply existing.
The proportion of patients seen within 4 hours at A&E departments in 2017 was 84% in major cases, and 89% overall. Within a 24 hour period, the NHS performs to a capacity that’s seen nowhere else in the world.
Around half of us in the UK die in a hospital, and the number of over-85s is estimated to more than double from 1.5 million to 3.6 million by 2039. What’s clear is that the NHS needs to ready itself to deal with a lot more death.
The UK is the best place to die
The good news is that the UK is thought to be one of the best places to die in the world. In the Quality of Death Index 2015 report, the UK received the top score in the indicator measuring whether or not a healthcare system places undue financial burden on its patients.
Due to the integration of palliative care into the NHS, itself a hospice movement largely funded by the charity sector, a lot of end-of-life care is funded from charities.
As the Index report went on to show, 80% to 100% of end-of-life care services are not paid for by the patient. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) also praised specialised staff and high levels of community engagement throughout the healthcare system.
NHS and dying at home
While most of us die in hospital, an overwhelming majority of people state a preference for dying at home. Over the last few years, there’s been a 5% rise in people dying at home and 11% drop in hospital deaths. A greater demand for dying at home means a greater demand for home services, which mainly consist of palliative and end of life care services.
With the UK coming out top for these services this shouldn’t be a problem, right? While the Quality of Death Index report was promising, the basic standards in this area of the NHS, however, still varies considerably.
In England less than 0.5% of the medical research budget is allocated to palliative and end of life care research, at a time when demand for palliative care is expected to rise by up to 40% by 2040.
Where the NHS stands in comparison with the rest of the world
In a 2017 report by the Commonwealth Fund on the NHS, the British institution ranked favourably against other parts of the world. In comparison with the healthcare systems of ten other countries – including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway and USA – the NHS was found to be the most impressive overall.
In the same year, though, a strong link was reported between high mortality rates in England and lower than average doctor numbers. High levels of hospital bed occupancy was also a factor behind the increase in deaths. In 2017, it was estimated there are up to 9,000 deaths in hospitals each year caused by failings in NHS care.
It’s never going to be easy to make a straightforward judgement about the NHS. That’s why we’ve left it to the numbers to tell the story of what’s undoubtedly one of the UK’s greatest assets.
Find out more
After an outcry against government cuts, in 2017 the NHS became the first healthcare body in the world to publish figures on avoidable patient deaths. Citing that it wanted to learn effectively from what’s gone wrong with the system in the past, it made an effort to be transparent with its shortcomings. Read about the numbers here.
At DEATH.io we’ve got more articles on end of life care, and the future of healthcare.