Britain suffers from the shortest maternity stays and among the fewest doctors, hospital beds and cancer scanners in Europe, according to an authoritative new report.
The damning study was authored by the Organisation for Co-operation and Development (OECD).
And the report will be particularly worrying, considering that NHS managers are currently drawing up plans for sweeping cutbacks to hospital services.
The new research suggests NHS services are already under worse strain than most European countries, with the third lowest beds per capita.
Midwives believe that pressure to send new mothers home early is leading to too many being rushed out of hospital before they have satisfactorily recovered.
British mothers spend the least time in hospital when they give birth, with an average stay of just 1.5 days – less than half the EU average of 3.2 days, the study indicates.
While Britain has fewer doctors per head of population than the vast majority of EU countries.
Britain has fewer doctors for its population than any EU country bar Romania and Poland.
And the new research also suggested that the UK has just 2.7 beds per 100,000 people – around half the EU average.
The EU average is 5.2 beds for such a population, rising to 8.2 in Germany.
Britain is also far behind other countries when it comes to provision of cancer scanning equipment, with the third lowest number of MRI scanners and the second lowest number of CT machines.
Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, believes that a lack of postnatal beds is a massive problem in the NHS.
“When women go home should be based on clinical need taking account of the woman’s circumstances, not the needs of the organisation caring for them. I do also have concerns that women may be going home sooner than they want to because of the availability of postnatal beds for them.”
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chairman, said the disclosures were incredibly concerning, and took some time to contextualise the current NHS climate.
“At a time when sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are threatening further cuts on the frontline of the NHS, these figures should serve as a wake-up call to the government. Patients cannot afford to lose any more hospital beds”.
Meanwhile, Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, suggested that the timing of the decision is particularly reprehensible.
“It’s incredible that cuts are threatened all the time when we have so few beds already and some hospitals can’t throw patients out fast enough.”
Health service leaders have been asked to draw up 44 sustainability and transformation plans, in order to help the NHS make £22bn in financial savings by 2020, and respond to rising demand.