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Atlas shows “unwarranted variation”


18 September 2015

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NHS patients are suffering from “unwarranted variation” in their care, which cannot be linked to levels of illness or patient-preference, a joint report from leading health bodies shows.

The third – and biggest – NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare aims to help commissioners, service providers and health professionals by revealing the possible over-use and under-use of different aspects of healthcare.

NHS patients are suffering from “unwarranted variation” in their care, which cannot be linked to levels of illness or patient-preference, a joint report from leading health bodies shows.

The third – and biggest – NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare aims to help commissioners, service providers and health professionals by revealing the possible over-use and under-use of different aspects of healthcare.

John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England (pictured) said: “Variations are not always bad. Some can be explained by local circumstance or patient centered care, but unwarranted variation is very different. While some patients are missing out on the right care, others are being given care they don’t need.”

It showed the percentage of key antibiotics prescribed in primary care for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) ranges from 6.8 to 16.8%. The Antimicrobial Prescribing Quality Measure (APQM) states usage should be less than 10%, so “there is a clear target for services to aim towards,” the report from Public Health England, NHS England and NHS Right Care states.

Patients with diabetes should receive a range of annual checks. There is a 1.7-fold variation (after exclusions) in the percentage of people with diabetes who got 8 NICE-recommended care processes.

Similarly, there is a 2.7-fold variation in claims by GPs for direct enhanced services for dementia diagnosis and patient support.

Chief medical officer, professor Dame Sally Davies said: “The first step in tackling unfair variation in health services is to identify where the problems are. This Atlas is a key tool in enabling us all to do this.

“Our challenge now is to consider how we can better understand and tackle the underlying causes. This is not a straightforward task, but exploring the data that lies behind these variations will be an important starting point,” she said.

For the full results and analysis click here.

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