GPs in deprived areas care for 10% more patients with 7% less funding

GP practices in the most deprived parts of England are caring for 10% more patients than their counterparts in affluent areas with 7% less funding, a report shows.

Deprived areas are underdoctored (Photo: Nick Barkworth/Getty Images)
Deprived areas are underdoctored (Photo: Nick Barkworth/Getty Images)

Practices serving deprived populations are more likely to be single-handed, more likely to be reliant on older GPs and score lower in CQC ratings and QOF targets, a report from the Health Foundation think tank says.

Half a century after GP Dr Julian Tudor Hart coined the phrase 'inverse care law' to describe his analysis that 'availability of good medical care tends to vary inversely with the need for it in the population served', the report finds that this law 'persists in general practice today'.

The findings are a stark illustration of the health inequality gap exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the virus hitting people in the UK's most deprived areas hardest.

GP funding

Funding per registered patient is similar for practices in the most and least deprived areas is similar, the report says - but once funding is weighted for need, a significant gap emerges.

After adjusting for 'increased workload associated with greater health needs in poorer areas', researchers found that practices in deprived areas receive 'around 7% less funding per need adjusted registered patient' than practices in better-off areas.

Read more
>
Map: Which parts of England rely most on GPs aged over 55?

The report also found that practices caring for patients in deprived areas have lower numbers of GPs per patient. It warns: 'After accounting for different levels of need, a GP working in a practice serving the most deprived patients will on average be responsible for the care of almost 10% more patients than a GP serving patients in more affluent areas.'

Demand for appointments is similar across deprived and affluent areas, the report shows.

Health inequality

As a result, patients in deprived areas are simply less likely to see a GP when they need an appointment in primary care. The report reveals: 'Patients attending practices serving more deprived populations are less likely to have an appointment with a GP and more likely to have an appointment with a nurse than those visiting practices serving less deprived populations.'

GPonline reported earlier this year on evidence that some of England's most underdoctored areas are heavily reliant on older GPs and doctors in BAME groups - leaving an already threadbare workforce potentially at increased risk during the pandemic.

The Health Foundation report adds further detail on the fragility of general practice in deprived areas - highlighting that practices serving these populations are 'typically smaller' and more than three times as likely to be single-handed.

The report highlights - as analysis by GPonline has previously shown - that GP practices in many  underdoctored areas have compensated by recruiting more nursing staff.

It also highlights the heavy reliance on older GPs in deprived areas. 'There are a disproportionate number of older GPs, particularly those aged 65 and older, working in the most deprived areas,' it says.

'Younger GPs tend to be working in the most affluent areas. If left unaddressed, this trend risks further exacerbating existing inequalities in GP supply as these older GPs working in areas of high deprivation eventually leave the workforce.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GPs place first orders from government flu jab reserve as £12m support fund rolled out

GPs place first orders from government flu jab reserve as £12m support fund rolled out

GP practices can start ordering flu vaccine from an 8m-dose government stockpile...

Quarter of government's 8m-dose flu stockpile is vaccine granted temporary approval

Quarter of government's 8m-dose flu stockpile is vaccine granted temporary approval

A vaccine yet to be licensed in the UK accounts for more than a quarter of the 8m...

GPs report drop in older patients coming forward with cancer symptoms

GPs report drop in older patients coming forward with cancer symptoms

More than half of GPs say numbers of older patients coming forward with cancer symptoms...

Failure to involve GPs in COVID-19 test and trace 'a disaster and a national shame'

Failure to involve GPs in COVID-19 test and trace 'a disaster and a national shame'

GPs and primary care teams should have played a key role in the UK’s efforts to test,...

RCGP chair 'livid' over attacks on general practice from 'armchair critics'

RCGP chair 'livid' over attacks on general practice from 'armchair critics'

General practice has risen 'heroically' to unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19...

Remote GP consultations a 'lifeline for the NHS' during pandemic, says Hancock

Remote GP consultations a 'lifeline for the NHS' during pandemic, says Hancock

The rapid switch to remote GP consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic provided...