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Life expectancy in the UK has increased but at a slower rate than in most of the European countries, new research has said.

The study, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has also shown that Britain has a poor record on cancer survival and high levels of obesity.

The report, Healthcare at a Glance, says that survival rates for breast, bowel and cervical cancer are among the worst in the OECD bloc, which comprises mostly industrialised nations.

This is a serious concern because Britain spends more than the average OECD country on health.

The report found that an average Briton lives an extra 9.6 years of life than in the 1960s, during the same period life span of average Italian and Spanish rose by an impressive 12 years.

The average Briton is expected to live to 80.4 - ranking 14th in the OECD list.

While British women are expected to live up to the age of 82.5 - up 8.8 years in the past 50 years, life expectancy of men is 78.3 years - up 10.4 years.

"Perhaps the problem is that the UK has been complacent in the past - so convinced that the NHS is the right model, that we stopped looking at whether we are doing well or badly," said Mark Pearson, head of the social policy unit at the OECD.

"Now governments have started to focus on why it may be that the UK is doing a poor job on cancer.

"The UK's poor performance could also be down to the influence of alcohol and obesity kicking in. The UK simply has not got a handle on these. Cancer care has also been a problem in Britain: the UK performs poorly on cancer survival.

"The NHS has done all the things we can think of to improve the situation, and perhaps these things have not yet had an effect."

The OECD's report also highlights certain disturbing trends about UK's healthcare:

Consumption of alcohol has gone up in Britain over the past few decades, unlike most of the European countries; British men are still the fattest in Europe and doctors carry out fewer consultations than they did ten years ago.

"This government will focus on what really matters - delivering great care and great results for patients," said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. He also blamed the Labour government for the dismal figures.