Is our spending on healthcare really below average?

The British Medical Association (BMA) has held its Annual Representative Meeting in Bournemouth today, where it has called for spending on the NHS to rise to match that of other leading EU economies.

What sort of a rise? Its economists have produced a figure of 10.4 per cent of GDP – a 0.6 percentage point increase on the current 9.8 per cent of GDP – which would mean a real terms increase in spending of £14.6 billion by 2022-23.

But is our healthcare spending really lagging behind that of ‘other leading EU economies’? The BMA has used the latest figures from the OECD in their calculations. We have had a look at them too.

  • Average spending on healthcare as a proportion of GDP within the OECD is 9.0 per cent – so the UK spends 0.8 percentage points above average.
  • Average spending on healthcare as a proportion of GDP within European members of the OECD is 8.8 per cent – so the UK spends 1.0 per cent above average.


What about ‘leading EU economies?’ The BMA does not make it clear which countries it has included in its calculations. In ours, we include the following:

 As the data above makes clear, even after narrowing down the sample to relatively developed EU economies with OECD membership, the UK’s healthcare spending relative to GDP is still 0.2 percentage points above average.