By Ian Dunt
The NHS is one of the most efficient healthcare system in the world, according to a surprising new report.
In a development which will complicate the government's arguments for healthcare reform, a Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine report found only Ireland's heathcare system saved more lives per pound spent.
"The government proposals to change the NHS are largely based on the idea that the NHS is less efficient and effective than other countries, especially the US," said Professor Colin Pritchard, the Bournemouth University academic who analysed post-1980 data for the report.
"The results question why we need a big set of health reform proposals.
"The system works well. Look at the US and you can see where choice and competition gets you - pretty dismal results."
The US performed particularly badly, as did Switzerland and Portugal.
Even Ireland may currently be performing worse than it does in the report because of the extent to which its economy has shrunk since medical data was made available.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley will struggle to write off the report, given that he previously quoted Professor Pritchard when arguing for his healthcare reforms.
The government relied particularly on a gap between UK and European cancer survival rates to justify its push for healthcare reform, which would increase competition and privatisation in the NHS.
But this argument was also flatly contradicted by the authors.
"In terms of actual cancer mortality rates, rather than the more ambiguous 'survival' rates, the UK had better results... which appears to be linked to major additional funds going to cancer care," the report reads.
Labour's decision to boost health spending while in office saw it reach a record 9.3% of GDP, but this remained less than in Germany (10.7%) or the US (15%).
Even with spending at such a low level, UK health performance was far more effective than that for other comparable European countries.
The NHS saved 3,951 lives per million of the population, compared to just 2,779 in France and 2,395 in Germany.