Health inequality: NHS-funded private sector hip operations worsening

Health inequality: NHS-funded private sector hip operations worsening
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According to research, the impact of outsourcing NHS hip operations to the private sector concludes there is a widening health inequality occurring.

Researchers from Newcastle University and Queen Mary University of London have found that continuing the trend towards private provision and reducing NHS provision is likely to result in risk selection and widening health inequality regarding the provision of elective hip operations in England.

Analysing the elective hip operations

Published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, researchers analysed NHS-funded elective hip operations in England from 2003 and 2004 to 2012 and 2013.

The results show that provision shifted from NHS providers to private providers from 2007/2008. NHS provision decreased 8.6% and private provision increased 188% between 2007/2008 and 2012/2013.

The researchers found that private sector hip operations on NHS patients from the most affluent areas increased 288%, compared to an increase of 186% among patients from the least affluent areas between 2007/2008 and 2012/2013.

The situation is “likely to be worse now”

The 2012 Health and Social Care Act places duties on NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Groups to ‘have regard to the need to reduce inequalities between patients with respect to their ability to access health services.’

Dr Shailen Sutaria, Queen Mary University of London, said: “While inequalities did not increase overall during the study period, this was due to the protective and buffering effects of NHS provision, which remained the dominant provider. The situation is likely to be worse now.”

Variations in elective hip surgery rates are well documented, with female and older patients and those living in the most deprived areas less likely to receive treatment relative to need. The researchers found that private providers favour less extremes of ages compared to NHS providers.

According to the researchers, these patients may represent more complex operations or associated co-morbidities that are excluded by private providers.

Professor Allyson Pollock, Director of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, said: “In 2017, over one-third of NHS-funded elective hip operations were performed by the private sector. If the trends here continue, whereby private provision substitutes for NHS direct provision, with risk selection favouring less deprived patients, then widening inequalities are likely.”

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