Objectives: Research into the socio-economic patterning of health and social care costs in the UK has so far been limited to examining only particular aspects of healthcare. In this study, we explore the social gradients in overall healthcare and social care costs, as well as in the disaggregated costs by cost category. Study design: We calculated the social gradient in health and social care costs by cost category using a linked electronic health record data set for Kent, a county in South East England. We performed a cross-sectional analysis on a sample of 323,401 residents in Kent older than 55 years to assess the impact of neighbourhood deprivation on mean annual per capita costs in 2016/17. Methods: Patient-level costs were estimated from activity data for the financial year 2016/17 and were extracted alongside key patient characteristics. Mean costs were calculated for each area deprivation quintile based on the index of multiple deprivation of the neighbourhood (lower super output area) in which the patient lived. Cost subcategories were analysed across primary care, secondary care, social care, community care and mental health. Results: The mean annual per capita cost increased with deprivation across each deprivation quintile, with a cost of £1205 in the most affluent quintile, compared with £1623 in the most deprived quintile, a 35% cost increase. Social gradients were found across all cost subcategories. Conclusions: Health inequalities in the population older than 55 years in Kent are associated with health and social care costs of £109m, equivalent to 15% of the estimated total expenditure in this age group. Such significant costs suggest that appropriate interventions to reduce socio-economic inequalities have the potential to substantially improve population health and, depending on how much investment they require, may even result in cost savings.
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© 2019 The Royal Society for Public Health
- Social care