Thursday, August 06, 2009

The NHS postcode lottery works both ways

This morning, there have been reports of a continuation of a postcode lottery for couples seeking IVF treatment. Interestingly, I've just discovered another postcode type NHS issue whilst trawling through the papers deposited in the Commons Library.

It seems that services for consultant referral are somewhat disparate in the NHS. That is to say, if you find yourself being referred to a consultant in the NHS, don't expect to be given an appointment in the area that you actually live.

In 2007/08, just over 40% of all out-patients in England requiring referral were sent to see consultants in NHS Trusts that covered an area they did not live in. Specifically that was 25,081,623 people out of a total 61,608,962.

In fairness the figure has come down slightly, in 2005/06 it was 57% (34,058,102 out of 59,758,473 referrals). Apparently they don;t have figures for 2006/07 because of a "known data quality issue".

Now I guess some might argue a positive spin on these figures and say that at least people are being seen. However, it remains pretty poor that if you need to see a consultant there is between a 40% and 50% chance that it will not be an appointment local to where you live.

I mean, it's OK if you have a car or other transport means of doing it easily. If you;re young it might not matter. However, if you're old, or frail in someway, or cannot drive, you're a bit buggered.

Seems the so-called "postcode lottery" also impacts the NHS's own ability to provide services based on postcode and not just deny them like with IVF.

Source: House of Commons Library

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