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The National Health Service (NHS) Postcode Lottery

Treatments for cancer and dementia and access to care homes are among the areas highlighted in the NHS Atlas of Variation.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 
PRLog (Press Release) - Jan. 17, 2012 - At the end of 2011, The Department of Health published the second edition of the Atlas of Variation, which is a tool to help the NHS identify unwarranted variation in healthcare services across England.  Ministers say the results will help identify “unjustified” disparities and drive up standards resulting in “consistently high quality care”.  

The report shows a stark contrast in the rate of prescribing anti-dementia drugs with patients in north Lancashire are being described 25 times as many treatments and tablets to help “temporarily improve or stabilise symptoms” than in Kent.  The report suggests that one possible reason is the lack of awareness some GPs have about how to spot early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease – a concern shared by campaigners for those living with the illness.

The annual study carried out across England is a detailed survey of the so-called “postcode lottery” (http://www.simply-postcode-lookup.com/index.htm) in treatment.

It also highlights worries that some breast cancer patients are staying in hospital too long in some parts of the country as compared with others.  The survey notes that most patients undergoing breast cancer surgery can be “safely managed as day cases or with a single overnight stay” but that currently more than 20 primary care trusts have average lengths of stay “in excess of three days”.

Access to care homes - paid for by the NHS for those receiving end-of-life care or round-the-clock intensive care – also varied considerably.  In Devon and Cornwall, with its high elderly population, the admission rate for those aged over 74 to care homes funded by the NHS was just under three per 100,000 of the population. The figure in Northumberland was 190.

The report measures 71 key indicators, including hospital admission rates, what treatments health trusts choose to fund, and how children are managed in the NHS. Health minister Lord Howe said: “The Atlas of Variation lets us look at how the local NHS is meeting the clinical needs of their local population.  This will help commissioners to identify unjustified variations and drive up standards so patients are receiving consistently high quality care throughout the NHS.

Lord Howe went on to say “We are committed to improving results for patients and our new NHS Outcomes Framework will hold the NHS to account for this.

The annual NHS Atlas of Variation will hopefully narrow the gaps in the NHS postcode lottery (http://www.simply-postcode-lookup.com/for_web.htm) by identifying variations in the care provided and drugs administered.

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