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Effects of health reform on health care inequalities
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Lead: Richard Cookson
University of York
As part of the Government's 'choice agenda', ambitious reforms are being phased into the NHS in England. Hospital funding will increasingly follow patients' choice of hospital, together with an increased role for private hospitals in delivering routine NHS care.
One major debate around these reforms is their potential impact on health care inequalities. The Government argues that the reforms will reduce inequality, by giving disadvantaged people choices that were previously available only to the wealthy. Conversely, critics argue that the reforms will increase inequality, as disadvantaged people will be less able to exercise the choices open to them. However, the precise mechanisms through which the reforms are likely to influence inequalities are poorly understood.

By bringing together national data from a wide range of different sources on small area variations between different parts of the country, this study will provide the first comprehensive picture of national trends in inequality in the use of hospital services. This new dataset will then allow an analysis of the mechanisms through which health reform appears to influence health care inequalities. This will provide robust quantitative evidence on the actual effects of health reform on inequalities.

Last updated: 13 August 2013
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