Inequality in hospital service use is costing the NHS in Wales the equivalent of a brand new NHS hospital, or the yearly salaries of nearly 10,000 extra nurses every year, according to a new report from Public Health Wales. Alternatively, the money saved could provide four times the funding required for the Welsh Government’s flagship programme Flying Start, which seeks to support the most disadvantaged families, communities and young children in Wales. The report looking at different hospital services, says preventative action targeted at improving the health equity between advantaged and disadvantaged communities and their timely access to health services could help reduce a £322 million healthcare gap, especially in emergency admissions and A&E attendance.
The report found that the average annual cost of health service provision was generally higher for those living in our more deprived communities. Costs were highest amongst working aged adults in all hospital service categories, except for elective inpatient admissions. The reasons for these gaps are complex and will be explored in further studies to expand understanding of how population differences and deprivation influence health service use in Wales.
Other key findings from the report are:
- Overall, there is no substantial difference in the costs associated with inequality between men and women.
- Emergency attendances and admissions experience the highest proportional costs associated with inequality in terms of social pattern of service use – there is a clear social gradient with a larger inequality gap for A&E attendances, followed by emergency and maternity hospital inpatient admissions.
- Emergency inpatient admissions are the largest contributor to the overall cost associated with inequality, with an additional cost of £247.4 million annually.
- Deprivation affects the cost for maternity inpatient admissions differently according to age group – higher cost is attributed to women in their early reproductive age (15 – 29 years) from the more deprived areas; and to women in their later reproductive age (30 – 44 years) from the least deprived areas.
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