Intended for healthcare professionals

Primary Care

Deprivation and volunteering by general practices: cross sectional analysis of a national primary care system

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 15 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1449
  1. Daniel Mackay, research fellow1,
  2. Matt Sutton, professor of health economics2,
  3. Graham Watt, professor of general practice (
  1. 1 General Practice and Primary Care, Division of Community Based Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 9LX
  2. 2 Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD
  1. Correspondence to: G Watt
  • Accepted 6 September 2005


Since the inception of the NHS, primary medical services in the United Kingdom have been mainly delivered by a large number of general practices operating as independent businesses. As well as providing general medical services, practices can participate in several voluntary activities associated with quality care and service development.

Methods and results

Our study population comprised 5.35 million people served by 1050 general practices and is a complete national sample of patients and practices.

We ranked general practice populations using a modified version of the Scottish Indices of Deprivation 2003,1 including currently available data for education, income, and employment, but excluding data for access and health. We used practice mean values to divide the population into 10 groups of equal size, from tenth 1 (least deprived) to tenth 10 (most deprived). We analysed the deprivation related distribution of population health indicators, practice characteristics, and participation in voluntary development schemes, using data for 2001-2 (table).

View this table:

Characteristics of populations, medical manpower and general practices in tenths of the general population stratified by socioeconomic deprivation

By design, the composite deprivation index increases …

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