Skip to content

International comparison of total health expenditure

This page presents comparisons of total UK health expenditure with other EU member states for the latest year available. Most countries in the EU either compile total health information according to A System of Health Accounts or are working towards this goal.

The internationally standard framework, set out in A System of Health Accounts, defines total expenditure on health as the economic resources spent on health care goods and services, including administration and health insurance, plus gross capital formation in health care industries.

ONS is using this definition as the basis for its figures of total UK expenditure on health, because of the desire to compare the UK with other countries around the world.

The use of such a framework with its consistent definitions, also permits improved analyses over time even though the NHS continues to adapt. The definitions in A System of Health Accounts have been discussed at an international level, are promulgated by the OECD, and supported by the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the European Commission.

A System of Health Accounts recommends that (i) household production of health care services (unpaid health care services provided in the home) and (ii) occupational health care (therapeutic and preventive care given by employers to employees) are treated as health expenditure. As with many other countries, the UK has not yet estimated a value for these components.

Other countries' deviations from the international definitions are documented in OECD Health 2003. In particular, ONS is aware that there are questions over the international comparability of estimates for long term nursing care, as legislation in different countries provides for different activities to be carried out by nurses under the banner of nursing care.

Consequently what is recorded nationally as nursing care may in many cases differ from what is deemed nursing care in the international definitions. The OECD is currently investigating how to compile further guidance for estimating this component in order to improve international comparisons.

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.