UK health expenditure

Health expenditure measures the total amount of money spent by a country on health care goods and services in a year. The data can be measured per capita or as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Health expenditure is converted to a common currency (US$) and adjusted by purchasing power parity (PPP) to make values comparable.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) System of Health Accounts 2011 introduced a new systematic description of the financial flows relating to health expenditure, and as more countries have adopted this framework of health accounting the data produced has become much more comparable and relevant to policy. In 2016, the UK implemented this system of health accounts and health expenditure data from 2013 onwards has been adjusted to comply with this. See this Nuffield Trust blog for more information.

How does health expenditure per capita vary internationally?

In 2016, the United States outspent all other countries, spending $5,700 more per capita than the UK and $5,889 more than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. The UK spent just above the average in 2016, spending $4,192 per capita compared to the OECD average of $4,003.

Updated November 2017.

How has health expenditure per capita changed in Europe?

Overall, the UK spends less on health per capita than the average of the EU15 countries. In 2016, the UK outspent Italy, Spain and Portugal, but underspent France, Germany and Sweden. Since 1998, Luxembourg has spent more on health than the other EU15 countries, spending $7,463 per capita in 2016.

Health expenditure per capita in the UK increased steadily between 1999 and 2009, with an average year-on-year increase of $150, after which the rate of increase slowed until 2012. Between 2012 and 2013, UK health expenditure per capita jumped from $3,177 to $3,845 - but this should be treated with caution, as it does not represent a real increase. In fact it reflects the UK's adoption of the OECD's most recent system of health accounts. A similar jump in health expenditure per capita can be seen for Sweden between 2010 and 2011.

Since 2013, UK health spending has increased year-on-year at a relatively slow rate, reaching an estimated $4,192 per capita in 2016. The rate of increase in health expenditure has also slowed in other European countries including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, although rates of increase have remained steady in Germany and Denmark.

Updated November 2017.

How does public and private health expenditure vary across Europe?

Public (governmental/compulsory) and private health expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) varies considerably across Europe. In 2016, the UK spent 7.7% of GDP on public health care which was just above the average spend of the EU15 countries (7.3%). The UK spent 2.0% of GDP on private health care which was just below the average spend of the EU15 countries (2.2%).

As a proportion of GDP, in 2016 Germany spent 9.5% on public health care which was the highest spend of all the EU15 countries. They also spent the greatest proportion of GDP on health care overall (11.3%). In contrast, Greece only spent 4.8% of GDP on public health care, but they spent 3.5% of GDP on private health care which was greater than all of the other EU15 countries.

Updated November 2017.

About this data

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines health expenditure as the final consumption of health care goods and services including personal health care and collective services, but excluding spending on investments. Health expenditure per capita includes government spending and compulsory health insurance as well as voluntary health insurance and private funding such as out-of-pocket payments.

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