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Transplant study shows NHS can outshine US healthcare system

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Cystic fibrosis patients who undergo lung transplantation in the US have worse outcomes in the long run than NHS patients, according to latest study findings.

Data analysis revealed that UK patients had better overall survival rates than US patients, including both those privately insured and publically insured via Medicaid or Medicare.

“The NHS’ lung transplant programme equals the top-notch care achieved under US private insurance and outperforms care received by publicly insured Americans”

Stephen Clark

Researchers from both countries compared 12 years of records on more than 2,700 patients with cystic fibrosis who underwent lung or combined heart-lung transplantation from2000-11.

Postoperative outcomes between a month and three months following surgery were similar, but differences emerged over the long run, said the researchers.

The average survival was 8.1 years among UK patients, compared with 7.9 years among privately insured US patients and 4.7 years among publically insured Americans.

The researchers said their study, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, was the first international comparison of lung transplant outcomes in patients with cystic fibrosis.

“The UK National Health Services’ lung transplant programme equals the top-notch care achieved under American private insurance and outperforms care received by publicly insured Americans,” said study author Stephen Clark, professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Northumbria and Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

“The results of the study underscore the ability of publicly funded healthcare systems to achieve excellent results in complex transplant surgery, and this is something we are rather proud of,” he said.

Lead study author Christian Merlo, a pulmonary and critical care specialist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said: “One of the popular criticisms of a single-payer health system has been the fear of scarcity of resources and rationing that may lead to suboptimal care.

“The comparable outcomes between lung transplant patients with public health insurance in the UK and their privately insured US counterparts indicate this fear may be unfounded or largely exaggerated,” he added.

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