Canada can learn from UK reforms to primary health care

    OTTAWA, June 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadian policy-makers could learn from
the United Kingdom's ambitious reforms to its National Health Service (NHS),
the Conference Board argues in a new publication released today.
    "Both the Canadian and U.K. health systems face many of the same
pressures, but the U.K. has shown an exemplary willingness to constantly
reinvent the structure and organization of its NHS," said Glen Roberts,
Director, Health Programs. "This reform is based on the premise that new
spending must be accompanied by efforts to improve productivity of the health
care workforce and improve the performance of the system."
    Under the Labour government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, the U.K. made
an unprecedented investment in the NHS over the past decade to bring its
spending more in line with the average in other European Union countries.
Along with providing new funding, The NHS Plan begun in 2000 also undertook a
reform strategy that measured the performance of health-care providers and
    Despite this investment, fiscal deficits have emerged in some regions of
the country and the sustainability of the system is being questioned. But
compared to Canada, the U.K. has a greater understanding of the value it has
received from its investments in NHS reforms. The key elements of the NHS
reforms include:

    Primary Care at the Forefront

    Primary care trusts control 80 per cent of the NHS budget, and they have
the policy and financial levers to shape the future of the NHS. These reforms
are far more extensive than anything Canadian provinces have envisaged.

    Private Sector Delivery

    The U.K. has also adopted private sector practices, such as collecting
self-reported health data from patients before and after care. While the
merits of "private" health-care provision remain controversial in both the
U.K. and Canada, opportunities to use best practices should not be ignored.

    Training and Development

    U.K. reforms focusing on productivity are grounded in the belief that
training and education are critical to a more efficient, productive workforce.
In 2004, the NHS's investment in training was equal to about two days of
instruction per employee for 40 per cent of the staff. Canada appears to lag
in its investment in this area, particularly in the health sector.

    Performance Targets and Benchmarking

    Comprehensive performance management and benchmarking are made possible,
in part, by a significant investment in information technology and the
collection of performance measurements. If Canada wishes to strengthen
accountability, it must increase its investment and use of information
technology in health care.

    The report, The UK Way, Spending and Measuring in the National Health
Service: Lessons for Canada, is publicly available at

For further information:

For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, (613) 526-3090,
ext. 448,

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