NHS improvements urged as Tory MP seeks to 'debunk myth' it is world's best

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It is time to "debunk the myth" that the UK has the best healthcare system in the world, a Tory MP will say.

Owen Paterson will warn that Britain must confront problems with the NHS and open the debate on healthcare in order to make improvements.

The former environment secretary is due to speak on the issue in light of a report commissioned by the UK 2020 think-tank he founded which suggested the number of annual avoidable deaths from common diseases in the UK is thousands higher than many other places across the globe.

Speaking in London on Monday evening, he is expected to call on people to take a more critical approach to the NHS, and look to explore other options.

He will say: "It is clear that possibly the most unquestioned consensus in politics today concerns the National Health Service. It is an area of public policy that, like no other, a politician dare not touch.

"The NHS towers above all else as the one common cultural unifier that we hold on to. To take a critical tone toward the NHS is considered almost unpatriotic.

"We simply do not have the best healthcare system in the world and the sooner we debunk the myth... the sooner we can square up to the reality and start improving our healthcare system."

He will refer to the report as showing the UK to be the worst place in western Europe to be pregnant and give birth, and that annual avoidable deaths from conditions including breast cancer and stroke are around 46,000 higher than other better-performing countries.

Mr Paterson is expected to urge that international evidence is considered in a bid to improve the healthcare system.

He will say: "It is time to break up the national consensus that blindly reveres the NHS, ignores the outcomes, and to open up the healthcare debate to empirical and international evidence.

"Until we do, thousands of our fellow citizens will continue to die prematurely."

Cancer specialist Dr Karol Sikora, a member of the editorial board which oversaw the report, said a "radical shake-up" is needed.

Dr Sikora said: "We all love the concept of the NHS but it's simply not adequate for dealing with the epidemic of chronic disease that is inevitable with an ageing population.

"A radical shake-up, not just an increase in funding, is needed if we are to catch up with other European countries in the next decade."