Exploratory Comparison of Healthcare costs and benefits of the UK’s Covid-19 response with four European countries

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In responding to covid-19, governments have tried to balance protecting health while minimising Gross Domestic Product (GDP) losses. We compare health-related net benefit (HRNB) and GDP losses associated with government responses of the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and Sweden from UK healthcare payer perspective.

We compared observed cases, hospitalisations, and deaths under “mitigation” to modelled events under “no mitigation” to 20th July 2020. We thus calculated healthcare costs, quality adjusted life years (QALYs), and HRNB at £20,000/QALY saved by each country. On per population (i.e. per capita) basis, we compared HRNB with forecast reductions in 2020 GDP growth (overall or compared to Sweden as minimal mitigation country) and qualitatively and quantitatively described government responses.

The UK saved 3.17 (0.32-3.65) million QALYs, £33 (8-38) billion healthcare costs, and £1416 (220-1637) HRNB per capita at £20,000/QALY. Per capita, this is comparable to £1,455 GDP loss using Sweden as comparator and offsets 46.1 (7.1-53.2)% of total £3075 GDP loss.
Germany, Spain, and Sweden had greater HRNB per capita. These also offset a greater percentage of total GDP losses per capita. Ireland fared worst on both measures. Countries with more mask wearing, testing, and population susceptibility had better outcomes. Highest stringency responses did not appear to have best outcomes.

Our exploratory analysis indicates the benefit of government covid-19 responses may outweigh their economic costs. The extent that HRNB offset economic losses appears to relate to population characteristics, testing levels, and mask wearing, rather than response stringency.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberckab019
Pages (from-to)619-624
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
Early online date9 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.

Structured keywords

  • Covid19
  • HEB


  • Germany
  • government
  • health care costs
  • Ireland
  • masks
  • quality-adjusted life years
  • Spain
  • economics
  • COVID-19


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