Poorest get the worst NHS care, finds study

Researchers examined 23 measures of healthcare quality.

Ian Snug
23 January 2020
Busy A&E Hospital

In every single indicator, care is worse for people experiencing the greatest deprivation.

A new analysis has found that people living in the most deprived areas of England experience a worse quality of NHS care and poorer health outcomes than people living in the least deprived areas.


Key findings include; those from deprived areas waited longer to be seen in A&E, had a higher incidence of pressure sores related admissions, and reported a worse experience from primary care services.

The research, undertaken by QualityWatch, a joint Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation programme, has looked at 23 measures of healthcare quality to see how these are affected by deprivation.

In every single indicator looked at, care is worse for people experiencing the greatest deprivation.   

Researchers also found that the inequality gap is greatest for measures that are heavily affected by issues beyond the NHS’s control such as poor housing and social care. These measures include avoidable deaths, smoking prevalence and emergency admissions to hospital. Measures relating to children and young people also showed large inequalities.


Poverty is bad for your health.

Responding to the findings, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Sarah Scobie said: “These findings show some concerning trends about the knock-on effect an overstretched NHS is having on the people in England who often need it the most.

“My worry is that continued pressure on the NHS is only going to exacerbate inequalities, despite the very best of intentions from staff to provide fair and equal care.

Health Foundation Assistant Director of Policy, Ruth Thorlby said: “Poverty is bad for your health, and people in the poorest parts of England face a vicious cycle. Poor living conditions, low quality work, and underfunded local services lead to worse health. These findings show that added to this, those in the most deprived areas are routinely experiencing longer waits in A&E, lower satisfaction and more potentially avoidable hospital admissions.

“Relieving growing pressure on the NHS must be part of the solution, but as important for the new government is investing in housing, education and good work to keep people healthy in the first place.”


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments