Is Public Healthcare in the UK as Sick as Rightwing America Claims?

From The Guardian:

The NHS has become the unexpected target of those opposed to Barack Obama’s healthcare reform proposals. Republicans and rightwing commentators in the US have made strong allegations about the failings of Britain’s health system. Denis Campbell and Girish Gupta put those claims to professionals in the health sector

The claim

Ted Kennedy, 77, would not be treated for his brain tumour if he was in Britain because he is too old – Charles Grassley, Republican senator from Iowa.

The response

Untrue, says the Department of Health. “There is no ban on anyone of any age receiving any treatment, ” said a spokesman. “Whether to prescribe drugs or recommend surgery is rightly a clinical decision taken on a case by case basis.”

The claim

In England, anyone over 59 years of age cannot receive heart repairs, stents or bypass because it is not covered as being too expensive and not needed – an anonymously authored, but widely circulated, email, largely sent to older voters

The response

Totally untrue. Growing numbers of patients over 65 with heart conditions are having surgery, including valve repairs and heart bypass surgery, says Professor Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) medical director. For example, the average age at which people have a bypass operation has risen from 58 in 1991 to 66 in 2008.

The claim

Breast cancer kills 46% of its targets in Britain, compared with 25% in the US; prostate cancer kills 57% of the Britons it strikes, compared with 25% of American victims; Britain’s heart attack fatality rate was 19.5% higher than America’s in 2005 – Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco-based thinktank

The response

Breast cancer does claim more lives, proportionally, here than in the US. According to the 2002 Globocan database run by the World Health Organisation’s cancer advisers, 19.2 of every 100,000 Americans die of the disease, but 24.3 per 100,000 here die. On prostate cancer, a Lancet Oncology global study last year found that 91.9% of Americans with the disease were still alive after five years compared to just 51.1% in the UK. With heart attacks, 40% of Britons who suffer one die from it compared to 38% in the States – nowhere near the difference claimed.