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Healthcare Standards - A Postcode Lottery?

A report has identified a number of shocking discrepancies in regard to access to several key NHS services including stroke and cancer care.

The NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare, which is published by NHS England and Public Health England, is an annual consideration of what is happening in each of the 211 clinical commissioning groups in England in more than 100 different areas of care.

Statistical Comparisons

Some of the results contained within the report are extremely concerning, including:

  • Only 1 in 3 patients in the worst performing areas are admitted to a stroke unit within four hours of arrival at hospital, compared to 8 out of 10 in the best performing areas;
  • Whilst 56% of patients in the best performing areas are diagnosed with cancer when the disease is at an early stage, increasing their chances of survival, this figure falls to 30% of patients in the worst performing areas;
  • Only 42% of patients get the right diabetes checks in the worst performing areas, compared to 72% in the best areas;
  • 1 in 10 diabetes patients have to undergo foot amputations in the worst performing areas - four times the rate in the best areas;
  • More than 50% of patients suffering from psychosis for the first time get help from specialist early intervention teams in the best performing areas - six times more than those in the worst areas.

Reaction to the Findings

Professor Julia Verne, from Public Health England said, “It is really important to tackle this unwarranted variation because patient’s lives are being put at risk.

“If we can iron them out then more patients will survive, they will have fewer complications and they will have a better quality of life.”

The medical director of NHS England, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, echoed Verne’s concerns and has urged local bosses to take action following the report to rectify the “inconvenient truths about the extent of variation in care for some common conditions.”

Nick Ormiston-Smith, Research UK’s Head of Statistics, recognises that, “cancer survival is improving, but these statistics show that cancer services are not meeting the needs of all patients.” He further commented that “improving early diagnosis and ensuring patients get the best possible treatments must be a priority for the NHS.”

Once cancer has been diagnosed, immediate treatment is absolutely crucial to the life expectancy and survival of every sufferer. The fact that some patients are being diagnosed early in one area while others are suffering potentially fatal delays in another is inexcusable. Early diagnosis and treatment is key and any negligent delay in diagnosing cancer can have a significant effect on any eventual outcome.

Slater and Gordon very much hope that the NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare will serve as a wake-up call to local health bosses, and steps will be taken to remedy the unacceptable disparities in levels of care in order to protect and improve the lives of patients.

Lauren Tully is a Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to Medical Negligence.

For a free consultation call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.

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