Find Health and Medical expertise in United Kingdom

Health care in the UK is dominated by the National Health Service (NHS), a public initiative that provides free health care funded mainly through taxation, with a workforce of more than 1.6 million people serving England, Scotland (NHS Scotland), Wales (NHS Wales) and Northern Ireland (HSC).

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland and the ministers for health in Scotland and Wales are responsible for the reform, improvement and management of health services and education as well as the running of NHS and HSC services in their respective countries.

The Department of Health, England is responsible for leading, funding and shaping health and health care in England. It is supported by a number of agencies and partner organisations, including the Care Quality Commission, NHS Blood and Transplant, the Human Tissue Authority and Public Health England.

The NHS budget for 2015–16 is £115.4 billion. Leading NHS hospitals include Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London (one of the world’s leading paediatric facilities), Papworth in Cambridgeshire (one of the biggest heart and lung specialist hospitals in Europe), Guy’s in London and Addenbrookes in Cambridge (both major teaching and research hospitals).

In addition to the NHS, there is a thriving private health care system offering a range of services, sometimes funded by employer-sponsored medical insurance. Health insurance providers also market directly to the public. More than 12% of the population is covered by private medical insurance (2011). Most private care is for specialist referrals, after individuals have utilised the primary care services of the NHS.

The pharmaceutical industry is highly advanced and is a major contributor to the GDP of the UK. Its pharmaceutical exports account for 7.4% of total global pharmaceutical exports (2011).

The NHS, launched in 1948, was set up with the philosophy that good quality health care should be available to all, regardless of wealth – it is free at the point of use for anyone who is a UK resident. In the decades since the NHS was first established, some, usually low, charges have been introduced, such as for prescriptions, dental care and eye tests, with variations between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But people on the lowest incomes usually pay lower, or no, charges.

Since 2011, some immigrants, depending on their visa status, have been charged for certain NHS services that would be free for British nationals. This includes antenatal and maternity care, which has led to a rise in the number of unattended home births as families strive to avoid charges that can run to several thousand pounds.

A Commonwealth Fund survey of health care systems in 11 countries found that Britain’s NHS ranked highest over all, beating Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.

Communicable and non-communicable diseases

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the UK accounted for an estimated 88% of all mortality in 2008. The most prevalent NCDs in the UK were cardiovascular diseases, which accounted for 34% of total deaths across all age groups in 2008, and cancer, accounting for 27% of all deaths. Non-communicable variants of respiratory diseases and diabetes contributed 8% and 1% to total mortality, respectively (2008). Communicable diseases along with maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions in the UK accounted for an estimated 8% of all mortality in 2008. Prevalence of HIV in the UK, as a percentage of people aged 15–49 years, is 0.3% (2013). The UK is considered a non-endemic country for malaria by the World Health Organization. However, between 2001 and 2010, there were 17,063 reported cases of ‘traveller’s malaria’ – infections acquired outside the country and brought into the national territory. Estimated deaths from tuberculosis (TB) have fallen since a peak in 2008.

The UK has a life expectancy of 81 years, showing a sustained increase, up from 76 years in 1990 and 78 years in 2000. Gains have been primarily due to reduced child and maternal mortality, and improved longevity for other age groups, particularly for older people with chronic diseases.

Tackling lifestyle-driven health problems

Levels of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths, and the sharp increases in adult and child obesity are among the most pressing public health concerns. Levels of smoking are steadily decreasing, with 20% of over-16s classified as smokers (2012). By comparison, in 1974, 45% of over-16s smoked. The government is investing funds in services to help people stop smoking.

A high level of alcohol consumption is a long-standing problem in the UK, but it is slowly decreasing, having hit a peak in the early 2000s. In 2012 the government released an alcohol strategy primarily aimed at reducing binge drinking. Measures included plans to make cheap alcohol less accessible and reduce the number of outlets licensed to sell alcohol.

Between 1993 and 2011 there was a notable increase in the proportion of both men and women in the UK who were classified as clinically obese. By 2004 the UK had one of the highest levels of obesity in Europe at 22.7%, almost twice the European Union average of 13.4%. Childhood obesity is also a growing concern. In the period 2011–12, 9.5% of four- and five-year-olds were obese.

In 2011 the government released its action plan Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Call to Action on Obesity in England, outlining a commitment to achieving an overall decrease in the level of excess weight averaged across all adults and children by 2020.

Less than a fifth of health care in the UK (17%) was paid for by patients or funded by other non-governmental entities – such as private insurers, charities or employers – in 2012.

In 2013 government expenditure on health was 7.6% of GDP. In the most recent survey, conducted in 2012, there were 279 medical doctors, and 883 nurses and midwives per 100,000 people. Additionally, 95% of one-year-olds in the UK were immunised with a dose of measles in 2013. In 2014, 100% of the population had access to improved water sources and 99% had adequate sanitation facilities.

The UK has signed up to and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which includes ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’. The covenant commits signees to providing healthy and hygienic environmental conditions, controlling epidemic diseases, improving child health and facilitating access to health services without discrimination.

Health and Medical organisations in United Kingdom
Bupa
Eli Lilly
GlaxoSmithKline
Merck
National Health Service (NHS)
Netcare Healthcare UK
Novartis
Pfizer