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Hospitals in the United Kingdom - Statistics & Facts

The vast majority of hospitals in the United Kingdom are publicly owned and managed by the National Health Service (NHS). There are, however, several private hospitals also in operation. Hospital services are regulated by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) which, together with the NHS ensure that high-quality care is provided. For individuals ordinarily resident in the UK hospital treatment is free. Hospital services are considered as secondary care, meaning that in order to access treatment you must be referred by a medical professional, with emergency care being an exception to this rule.

In the United Kingdom, seven percent of GDP expenditure goes towards the NHS and around 2.6 billion British pounds of the annual household expenditure budget goes towards hospital services. The number of admissions to NHS hospitals in England is steadily increasing, with a quarterly attendance rate of 1.5 million individuals. The University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust was ranked as the busiest hospital trust in England, with over 380 thousand admissions in 2019/20.

Approximately 1.54 million people are employed in hospitals in the United Kingdom working as nurses, doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, physiotherapists, cleaners and administration staff. Individuals receiving treatment in hospitals are categorized as inpatients who require an overnight stay, or outpatients who are attending for a day procedure or consultation. According to a survey conducted in 2019, 28 percent of individuals believed that they were waiting too long before being admitted to hospital. Furthermore, the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for elective treatment in England has more than doubled since 2013.

Hospitals are generally composed of different departments and wards including maternity, surgery, intensive care, oncology and accident and emergency. Emergency departments are constantly under scrutiny to deliver efficient and effective care within a set timeframe. The aim is for 95 percent of patients to be seen by a medical professional and discharged or referred to another department within four hours. In 2019, less than 80 percent of attendees to A&E in England were seen within four hours. In 2020, the core services of NHS acute hospitals were rated, with services for outpatients and diagnostic imaging receiving the highest share of ‘good’ ratings for service. While A&E services required the most improvement according to the ratings.


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