The UK has been ranked ninth, below both Estonia and Spain, in a comparison of the health care offered by 12 European countries.
The survey, by Health Consumer Powerhouse, a private health think-tank based in Sweden, put The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany top. Only Hungary, Italy and Poland were rated lower than the UK whose services were described as 'mediocre'.
Surprisingly, France, which is so ofted touted as a model to aspire to in the UK and which has often come top of health polls, was ranked seventh.
Using information from organisations such as the World Health Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and patient and professional groups, the survey ranked 20 variable in five areas - patients' rights and information, waiting times for common treatments, care outcomes, customer friendliness and access to medication.
The UK, which came top in health information, scored 36 points out of a possible 60.
The report summary said: 'A mixed performance is showed by the UK, which wins out on healthcare information, but waiting lists and uneven quality performance drags down the overall score.
'In Southern Europe, Spain and Italy do provide excellent healthcare services."
'Real excellence seems to be a bit too dependent on the consumer's ability to afford private healthcare as a supplement to public healthcare for these countries to reach top scores.
'The three new Central European EU member states of Poland, Hungary and Estonia are doing surprisingly well, considering their much smaller healthcare spend as a percentage of GDP [Gross Domestic Product].
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health told the BBC: 'We do not accept the claims from this organisation. It appears that many of the conventional indicators used by established organisations like the OECD to measure the performance of different health systems, such as life expectancy, have been ignored to come up with this league table.'
The European health table
Page created on June 27th, 2005
Page updated on December 1st, 2009