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Map reveals health postcode lottery

26 November 2010

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The standard of treatment patients can expect to receive from NHS services varies widely amongst trusts, according to information released by the government.

Different practices in health trusts have created a postcode lottery within the healthcare system, with hospitals in some regions providing a far inferior service to counterparts.

The Department of Health has published the NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare, which shows that in key areas such as diabetes, stroke and cancer care, some NHS trusts are failing.

NHS managers and members of the public are able to assess how their region is performing in relation to other areas of England by looking at maps published by the department.

Many of the maps are standardised to take account of differences in age, sex and prevalence of the condition – some of the major reasons typically cited for variations in care.

The report therefore reveals that practices between NHS trusts vary in ways that cannot always be explained by social or patient factors.

The study looks at quality of care, outcomes for patients, how much activity there is in a trust, value and expenditure.

The report includes all 152 PCTs in England illustrated through 34 maps.

Some variation occurs naturally in the NHS according to the needs and wishes of patients, it said.

Health minister Lord Howe said the information would help health trusts “better meet the needs of their local populations”.

Professor Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the King’s Fund, said: “If performance across the NHS can be brought up to the level achieved by the best, then much of the pressure on local NHS budgets can be relieved without having to cut services for patients.”

Copyright © Press Association 2010

NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare