Poorer patients have more NHS operations cancelled but white middle class people are more likely to complain
Study by Kings College London examined five million patients scheduled to have an operation
21:07 GMT, 15 September 2012
People from deprived backgrounds and ethnic minorities are more likely to have their NHS operations cancelled, according to a new study.
The report suggests doctors could be discriminating against disadvantaged patients because white, middle-class patients are more likely to complain if they have to rearrange their surgery.
But it also says patients from a poorer background could have their surgery delayed because they are less likely to comply with important instructions such as remembering to fast.
A survey revealed that poorer patients are more likely to have their NHS operations cancelled than the complaining white middle classes
The study, by researchers from King’s College London, came from official figures taken from Hospital Episode Statistics, a huge database containing details of admissions across the country.
It examined more than five million patients scheduled to have operations during 2007, of which about 160,000 – three per cent – were cancelled.
Researchers found that those from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to have their procedures delayed as did black, Indian and Asian patients, when compared with white patients.
Operating theatres such as this are in high demand
Their report does not show which patients were most in need of the operations, and acknowledged that some of the cancellations were ‘undoubtedly unavoidable’.The study was published in the journal Health Economics and lead author economics lecturer Dr Graham Cookson said that it was ‘unlikely’ doctors were simply discriminating against poorer patients.
But he said they may be tempted to cancel poorer patients because white middle-class patients were more able to lobby medical staff or to be more vocal.
He added: ‘It may also be explained by poorer compliance with pre-operative instructions, such as fasting or greater complexity among patients from lower social classes.’