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Health equity indicators for the English NHS: a longitudinal whole-population study at the small-area level

Cookson, Richard, Asaria, Miqdad ORCID: 0000-0002-3538-4417, Ali, Shehzad, Ferguson, Brian, Fleetcroft, Robert, Goddard, Maria, Goldblatt, Peter, Laudicella, Mauro and Raine, Rosalind (2016) Health equity indicators for the English NHS: a longitudinal whole-population study at the small-area level. Health Services and Delivery Research. ISSN 2050-4349

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Background:Inequalities in health-care access and outcomes raise concerns about quality of care and justice, and the NHS has a statutory duty to consider reducing them.Objectives:The objectives were to (1) develop indicators of socioeconomic inequality in health-care access and outcomes at different stages of the patient pathway; (2) develop methods for monitoring local NHS equity performance in tackling socioeconomic health-care inequalities; (3) track the evolution of socioeconomic health-care inequalities in the 2000s; and (4) develop ‘equity dashboards’ for communicating equity findings to decision-makers in a clear and concise format.Design:Longitudinal whole-population study at the small-area level.Setting:England from 2001/2 to 2011/12.Participants:A total of 32,482 small-area neighbourhoods (lower-layer super output areas) of approximately 1500 people.Main outcome measures:Slope index of inequality gaps between the most and least deprived neighbourhoods in England, adjusted for need or risk, for (1) patients per family doctor, (2) primary care quality, (3) inpatient hospital waiting time, (4) emergency hospitalisation for chronic ambulatory care-sensitive conditions, (5) repeat emergency hospitalisation in the same year, (6) dying in hospital, (7) mortality amenable to health care and (8) overall mortality.Data sources:Practice-level workforce data from the general practice census (indicator 1), practice-level Quality and Outcomes Framework data (indicator 2), inpatient hospital data from Hospital Episode Statistics (indicators 3–6) and mortality data from the Office for National Statistics (indicators 6–8).Results:Between 2004/5 and 2011/12, more deprived neighbourhoods gained larger absolute improvements on all indicators except waiting time, repeat hospitalisation and dying in hospital. In 2011/12, there was little measurable inequality in primary care supply and quality, but inequality was associated with 171,119 preventable hospitalisations and 41,123 deaths amenable to health care. In 2011/12, > 20% of Clinical Commissioning Groups performed statistically significantly better or worse than the England equity benchmark.Limitations:General practitioner supply is a limited measure of primary care access, need in deprived neighbourhoods may be underestimated because of a lack of data on multimorbidity, and the quality and outcomes indicators capture only one aspect of primary care quality. Health-care outcomes are adjusted for age and sex but not for other risk factors that contribute to unequal health-care outcomes and may be outside the control of the NHS, so they overestimate the extent of inequality for which the NHS can reasonably be held responsible.Conclusions:NHS actions can have a measurable impact on socioeconomic inequality in both health-care access and outcomes. Reducing inequality in health-care outcomes is more challenging than reducing inequality of access to health care. Local health-care equity monitoring against a national benchmark can be performed using any administrative geography comprising ≥ 100,000 people.Future work:Exploration of quality improvement lessons from local areas performing well and badly on health-care equity, improved methods including better measures of need and risk and measures of health-care inequality over the life-course, and monitoring of other dimensions of equity. These indicators can also be used to evaluate the health-care equity impacts of interventions and make international health-care equity comparisons.Funding:The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO
Divisions: LSE Health
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2019 09:09
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 16:10

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