UK vs. US Healthcare Systems and Disparities


The healthcare system of the United States is considered strong and effective in its efforts to serve the population and is ranked tenth in the world (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Nevertheless, it is always important to compare existing systems for identifying challenges and barriers to successful care implementation. The United Kingdom health care system was chosen for comparison because it can provide examples of efficient care that the US may follow in the future.

Health Statistics and Costs

Getting to know the statistics on overall population health and costs of services is essential to understand the background of each system. It has been reported that in both the UK and the US, life expectancy dropped in comparison to such countries as Australia. The UK’s life expectancy decreased to 82.7 years for women and 79 years for men (Australian Associated Press, 2018). In the US, women are expected to live 81.4 years while men – 6.4 years. According to the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018) data, the mortality rate in the United States is “844.0 deaths per 100,000 population, with the infant mortality rate being 5.90 deaths per 100,000 population” (para. 4).

In the same year, the mortality rate in the UK was 930.0 deaths per 100,000 population (Statista, 2018). The most common health conditions causing death in the US include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Similarly, the UK struggles with cancer, COPD, heart and circulatory diseases, liver disease, and stroke (“Top health issues affecting the British public,” 2016). In 2015, the total health expenditure per capita as a ratio of the total population was US$4,125 in the UK and US$9.507 in the US (OECD, 2018). In 2016, the total health expenditure as a GDP percentage was 17.2% in the US and 9.7% in the UK (Statista, 2016a).

Health Care Financing

In the United States, the costs of healthcare are high while services are technologically advanced. It is financed through such sources as governmental programs (for example, Medicaid and Medicare), private health insurance plans that the population can get from their employers, as well as through out-of-pocket funds (Schreck, 2018). The newly-established Affordable Care Act is funded with the help of government spending cuts and other sources such as taxes.

The percentage of public financing is 49% while private is 51% (Statista, 2016b). In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service (NHS) is funded predominantly with the help of taxation that is provided by national insurance sources. However, there are also cases of out-of-pocket funding (McKenna, Dunn, Northern, & Buckley, 2017). The public and private funding of health care in the country constitute 80% and 20% respectively (Statista, 2016b).

Health Care Administration

In the United States, several governmental agencies are responsible for healthcare regulation. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for overseeing health care services in the country. Its agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) being responsible for the regulation of relevant processes.

The rights and benefits of citizens are ensured by such agencies as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Department of Labor (DOL), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service is the head overseeing, regulation, and insurance agency, which is also responsible for managing the affairs concerning vulnerable populations as well as workers.

Healthcare Facilities and Human Resources

The total number of all United States registered hospitals is 5,534, of which 4,840 are community hospitals. In total, there are 894,574 staffed beds in all registered hospitals, of which 780,272 are beds in community hospitals. Registered hospitals are considered those meeting the American Hospital Association’s criteria for the registration of healthcare facilities (AHA, 2018). In the United Kingdom, there are 168 acute trusts, which represent clinics and hospitals for the National Health Service. The total number of NHS hospital beds has decreased by more than 50% from the end of the 1980s, and currently constitutes 142,568 beds (Ewbank, Thompson, & McKenna, 2017).

In the US, the number of nurses is continuously growing, and now there are 2,906,840 professionals in this field (Unites States Department of Labor, 2017). There are 1,045,910 physicians in the country, and the number is expected to grow (Statista, 2013). In the UK, the trend of the increasing number of employed and self-employed nurses also exists, and there are 659,000 nurses in the country (Statista, 2017a). In 2017, the number of physicians was 185,692, which is not a lot compared to the US (Statista, 2017b).


Overall, there are some advantages and disadvantages to health care systems in both countries. It is important to discuss healthcare disparities because they may show how well each country understands the needs of vulnerable populations. In the US, there is an issue of uninsured patients that are not eligible for the ACA coverage. These populations include individuals living on and below the poverty line, Indigenous populations, LGBT representatives, unemployed people, and immigrants. In the UK, the same problem exists; however, the scope is not as severe due to the integration of universal healthcare principles.


American Hospital Association. (2018). Fast facts on U.S. hospitals, 2018. Web.

Australian Associated Press. (2018) Australians living longer but life expectancy dips in US and UK. The Guardian. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Mortality data. Web.

Ewbank, L., Thompson, J., & McKenna, H. (2017). NHS hospital bed numbers: Past, present, future. Web.

McKenna, H., Dunn, P., Northern, E., & Buckley, T. (2017). How health care is funded. Web.

OECD. (2018). Health expenditure and financing. Web.

Schreck, R. I. (2018). Overview of health care financing. Web.

Statista. (2013). Statistics & facts on U.S. physicians/doctors. Web.

Statista. (2016). Health expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product in selected countries in 2016. Web.

Statista. (2016b). Public and private per capita health expenditure in selected countries in 2016 (in U.S. dollars). Web.

Statista. (2017a). Annual number of nurses in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2010 to 2018 (in 1,000). Web.

Statista. (2017b). Number of healthcare physicians employed in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2000 to 2017. Web.

Statista. (2018). Death rate per 1,000 resident population in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2000 to 2016. Web.

Top health issues affecting the British public. (2016). Web.

United States Department of Labor. (2017). Occupational employment statistics. Web.

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NursingBird. (2021, February 7). UK vs. US Healthcare Systems and Disparities. Retrieved from


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NursingBird. "UK vs. US Healthcare Systems and Disparities." February 7, 2021.