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Location, location, location: NHS treatment is still a lottery

Medical Technology Group analysis reveals the postcode lottery of NHS care is alive and well

When you fall ill, you expect to receive treatment as quickly and conveniently as possible, irrespective of where you live.

Our latest analysis of NHS data, however, has found that in England, just two hours of travelling time is all it takes to find treatment rates that are three times higher.

The analysis, which reviews the number of patients treated by each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in June 2021, reveals that NHS Wirral CCG treated a mere 2.52 patients per 1,000 population. Just 80 miles northeast though, 8.77 patients per 1,000 population received care from NHS Wakefield CCG.

In fact, NHS services in the Northeast consistently come out on top, where an average of 5.37 patients per 1,000 population were treated. Of the 10 best performing CCGs, 7 were in the North.

Patients in the Midlands and South are less fortunate, where 8 of the 10 worst performing CCGs were located. Some treated less than 3 patients per 1,000 population in June 2021.

Our analysis also looks at the pre and post pandemic levels of care. It found that CCGs in England are treating significantly fewer patients than before the Covid-19 pandemic. A comparison found that 242,293 people received treatment in July 2021, nearly 22,000 fewer (-8%) than the same period in 2019 (264,108). The findings show that the NHS still needs to make significant progress to address the waiting list of 5.45 million people in June 2021 and return to pre-pandemic levels.

Power to the patients

The postcode lottery of care is a matter that the Medical Technology Group has long been campaigning for action to address. In 2017, we launched our Ration Watch campaign which found that over 50 percent of the UK’s CCGs (104) were restricting access to cataract removal, and a further 78 CCGs to life-changing hip and knee replacement.

This analysis, the latest instalment of our Ration Watch campaign, entitled Defeating the Backlog – is testament that in today’s NHS, where you live, not what you need, is still likely to be the determining factor in the treatment you receive.

To ensure patients are treated fairly and equitably as the NHS battles to recover from the enormous impact of Covid, we want NHS England to adopt a post-Covid patient charter.

We are proposing:

  • Rapid access to treatment and information on waiting times.
  • No arbitrary restrictions, such as weight or pain thresholds.
  • Effective appeals if a treatment is not given or a patient is not happy with their care.
  • A choice of treatment and location, with existing rights upheld.
  • A patient say on prioritisation decisions and on regional NHS Boards.

The Defeating the Backlog data can be accessed here.

September 2021

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