By Parul Kaul-Green1
1Head of AXA Next Labs Europe, AXA
In mid-2019, the Financial Times1 reported that National Health Service waiting times were an abomination. Only 38% of NHS trusts were meeting the 62-day waiting time limit for cancer patients to begin treatment after an urgent referral. Meanwhile, the waiting list for elective, or non-urgent, care had increased by 1.5 million in March 2013 to 4.2 million in November 2018. This situation is not unique to the UK; health systems in Europe face the challenge of ageing populations, an increasing burden of chronic disease (representing nearly 77% of health expenditure) and non-demographic factors such as the emergence of new, and often expensive treatments.
The Health at a Glance: Europe 2018 OECD report2 which analysed health systems in 28 EU member states set out some warning signs. Gains in life expectancy have slowed down in many EU countries, and growing income inequality is a major contributor.3 The report also estimated that up to one fifth of the health expenditure within the EU is wasteful, primarily due to unnecessary treatment and hospital admission.
Additionally, the public health response to preventable risk factors such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption is inadequate and, in many instances, ineffective. The report postulated that up to 1.2 million lives could be saved with more effective and timely healthcare. However, it also noted that unmet ...