What this briefing does and doesn’t cover

This briefing examines some aspects of the quality of care for a small selection of major conditions where we could find enough reliable data to tell the story of change over time. It is largely limited to England but includes UK comparisons with the performance of health systems in other countries. Where possible, we have used metrics from national clinical audits, themselves based on guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), together with international comparisons published by the OECD.

The four aspects of quality covered in this briefing are all either leading causes of ill health or high profile dimensions of NHS performance.

  • Waiting times for hospital treatment: we have included urgent and emergency care, and other more routine hospital treatment and procedures.
  • Care for patients with diabetes: this is a complex lifelong condition that can cause a range of complications and is estimated to affect around 3.8 million people over 16 years of age in England.
  • Psychological therapy for common mental health conditions: we have included data on access to evidence-based psychological therapies for conditions such as depression and anxiety, which affect around 6.1 million people in England at any one time.
  • Speed and use of the most effective best-practice treatments: we have looked at indicators for two cardiovascular diseases and two common cancers. In 2015/16, around 194,000 hospital visits were caused by heart attacks in the UK and around 240,000 visits were caused by stroke. 46,083 new diagnoses of breast cancer and 34,729 new diagnoses of bowel cancer were registered in England in 2015 which, together with prostate and lung cancer, accounted for just over half of all new cancers diagnosed in 2015.
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