UK is Europe’s “star” in health information websites

  • 17 June 2005

The United Kingdom’s health services have come top of a European-wide healthcare survey for patient access to information due to the number of health websites despite being labelled overall as "mediocre" and ranked ninth out of 12 for health service quality.

The 2005 EuroHealth Consumer Index, which was published by Brussels-based so-called ‘do-tank’, Health Consumer Powerhouse, surveyed 12 European countries, including Switzerland, in consumer-driven factors such as waiting times, customer friendliness, patient rights and access to medication. The UK was called "mediocre" on its overall performance, due to ‘below average’ quality of care.

"UK is the star, though, on healthcare information," Dr Arne Bjornberg, EuroHealth Consumer Index director at Health Consumer Powerhouse, said.

Particular praise was reserved for, which collects information on availability and quality of health services across the UK for both patients and healthcare professionals. The report suggested the service might be alone in Europe, although it noted that some basic attempts were underway to emulate the service in the Netherlands.

The UK is also the only country surveyed in Europe to have "web or 24/7 telephone healthcare information" – namely NHS Direct and NHS 24 – generally available to the public, say the researchers.

However, it was noted that the UK’s patients still did not have routine, regular and easy access to their own health records; something that counted against it in the rankings. Estonia, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden have full patient access to records; Germany, Spain and Switzerland have limited access.

Dr Bjornberg added that she thought recent developments in legislation "The new Freedom of Information Act will hopefully improve the score on the Index openness indicators."

In contrast, while the German health service was considered to be highly customer-driven and came third in the overall ranking, the report notes that it "would be really great with more openness of information. You want healthcare information – ask your doctor."

The report noted that on a European basis, consumer-driven healthcare systems where more than one health financing solution was available to patients, health information and patient rights tended to be higher. "Scores of countries like Germany and France suffer from what seems to be an expert-driven attitude to healthcare," it noted.

A full copy of the survey can be downloaded from here.


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