Poverty costs NHS billions, report warns
Link between deprivation and illness
THE COUNTRY’S health inequality is costing the NHS in England in £4.8bn a year, almost a fifth of the total NHS hospital budget, according to new university research.
A team from York University has found that the more deprived the neighbourhood that someone lives in, the more likely they are to be ill or to require admission to hospital.
The authors of a new report say their findings make a financial case for tackling the differences in the health of people from affluent and deprived communities.
Their research found a “social gradient” in poor health affects everyone in the country, and not just those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods.
People living in the most deprived fifth of neighbourhoods have 72 per cent more emergency hospital admissions and 20 per cent more planned admissions than people living in the most affluent fifth of neighbourhoods, the study reveals.
As a result, average hospital costs for the poorest people are almost 50 per cent higher than those for the richest, and there is an eight year gap in life expectancy for men and a six-year gap in women between people living in the most deprived and most affluent neighbourhoods.
Over their lifetimes, men living in the most deprived neighbourhoods cost the NHS 16 per cent more than men living in the most affluent neighbourhoods, despite having shorter life expectancies.
Women living in the most deprived neighbourhoods cost 22 per cent more than women living in the most affluent neighbourhoods, the authors conclude.
Miqdad Asaria, from York University’s Centre for Health Economics, said: “At a time when the NHS budget is under a great deal of pressure this study shows that socio-economic inequalities in society are exacting a huge bill on the health service.
“In addition to the strong moral case for tackling the unjustifiable differences in health between the rich and the poor there is also a strong financial case for doing so.”
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, used government data on every hospital admission and death in the country from April 2011 to April 2012.
It shows that reducing the causes of excess illness associated with deprivation will both extend lives and result in significant savings to the NHS. The NHS hospital budget makes up a fifth of the total NHS budget of approximately £100bn.
If similar inequalities were to be observed in other parts of the NHS, such as primary and specialist care, the total cost of inequality to the NHS would be almost £20bn, according the report’s authors.
The university has also produced new research along with Manchester and Michigan universities which found that a major care pay for improving patient health care and outcomes has not saved any additional lives
In 2004, the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) was introduced across general practices in the UK. It increased GP income by up to 25 per cent, dependent on performance on over 100 quality of care indicators. In its first seven years, the scheme cost the NHS £5.86bn.
An analysis of the QOF, shows modest reductions in deaths, but no statistically significant declines in mortality rates for the chronic conditions targeted by the programme, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Inequalities are exacting a huge bill on the health service. Miqdad Asaria, from York University’s Centre for Health Economics
MIQDAD ASARIA: Strong financial as well as moral case for tackling differences in health.