Intended for healthcare professionals


Deprivation and emergency admissions for cancers of colorectum, lung, and breast in south east England: ecological study

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 25 July 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:245
  1. Allyson M Pollock, senior lecturer in public health medicine,
  2. Neil Vickers, research assistant
  1. Department of Public Health Sciences, St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Pollock, School of Public Policy, University College London, London WC1E 7HN


    Objective: To examine the relation between deprivation and acute emergency admissions for cancers of the colon, rectum, lung, and breast in south east England.

    Design: Ecological analysis with data from hospital episode statistics and 1991 census.

    Setting: North and South Thames Regional Health Authorities (population about 14 million), divided into 10 aggregations of 31 470 census enumeration districts (median population 462).

    Subjects: 146 639 admissions relating to 76 552 patients aged <100 years on admission, resident in the Thames regions, admitted between 1 April 1992 and 31 March 1995.

    Results: Residents living in deprived areas were more likely to be admitted as emergencies and has ordinary inpatient admissions and less likely to be admitted as day cases. Adjusted odds of ordinary admissions from the most deprived tenth occurring as emergencies (relative to admissions from the most affluent tenth) were 2.29 (95% confidence interval 2.09 to 2.52) for colorectal cancer, 2.20 (1.99 to 2.43) for lung cancer, and 2.41 (2.17 to 2.67) for female breast cancer; adjusted odds of admissions as day cases were 0.70 (0.64 to 0.76), 0.50 (0.44 to 0.56), and 0.56 (0.50 to 0.62), respectively. Patients from deprived areas with lung or breast cancers were less likely to be recorded as having surgical interventions. Adjusted odds of patients from the most deprived tenth receiving surgery were 0.88 (0.78 to 1.00), 0.58 (0.48 to 0.70), and 0.63 (0.56 to 0.71), respectively. Admissions for colorectal cancer from the most deprived areas were less likely to be to hospitals admitting 100 or more new patients a year; the opposite held true for breast cancer admissions. No association was found for lung cancer admissions.

    Conclusions: Earlier diagnostic and referral procedures in primary care in deprived areas are required if there are to be significant reductions in mortality from these cancers. A national information strategy is required to ensure the continued availability of population based data on NHS patients and to mandate standardised datasets from the private sector. Rationalisation of acute services, hospital mergers, and plans for bed closures must take into account the increased healthcare needs and inequities in access to treatment and care of residents in areas with high levels of deprivation. Health authorities and primary care groups should re-examine their purchasing intentions, service reviews, and monitoring arrangements in the light of these findings.

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