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Inequity and inequality in the use of health care in England: an empirical investigation

Authors
Disciplines
  • Economics
  • Education

Abstract

Achieving equity in healthcare, in the form of equal use for equal need, is an objective of many healthcare systems. The evaluation of equity requires value judgements as well as analysis of data. Previous studies are limited in the range of health and supply variables considered but show a pro-poor distribution of general practitioner consultations and inpatient services and a pro-rich distribution of outpatient visits. We investigate inequality and inequity in the use of general practitioner consultations, outpatient visits, day cases and inpatient stays in England with a unique linked data set that combines rich information on the health of individuals and their socio-economic circumstances with information on local supply factors. The data are for the period 1998-2000, just prior to the introduction of a set of National Health Service (NHS) reforms with potential equity implications. We find inequalities in utilisation with respect to income, ethnicity, employment status and education. Low-income individuals and ethnic minorities have lower use of secondary care despite having higher use of primary care. Ward level supply factors affect utilisation and are important for investigating health care inequality. Our results show some evidence of inequity prior to the reforms and provide a baseline against which the effects of the new NHS can be assessed.

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