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Patient factors affecting quality of health care to be examined

12 July 2012

A new study looking into patient characteristics that may have an impact on the standard of healthcare received has been funded by the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) programme.

Long-term conditions such as diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis cause the great majority of disability in the UK. At least some of that disability could be prevented by available treatment, although sometimes people with disabling conditions do not receive the simple healthcare they require.

Patients play a key role in their own treatment and little is known about why some people receive effective treatment and others do not. Patient characteristics such as eyesight, hearing, education, mobility, and the presence of other conditions may be important in accessing good care.

The research team, led by Dr Nicholas Steel of the University of East Anglia, will use the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) to try to give a picture of the personal characteristics of patients and their health outcomes. The study uses a sample of 5,791 people aged over 50 years of age who are visited every two years, and is a unique resource of data on service quality, participant characteristics and health outcomes.

Commenting on the project, Dr Steel said: “By analysing the data available from the ELSA we hope to discover what effect patient characteristics have on the quality of care received.  In this way, we hope to find out who does not receive good quality care and why."

The study will be the first to analyse data on quality of care from the ELSA over time. This will enable the research team to identify earlier causes, such as reported health status that may impact upon the quality of healthcare received later in a patient’s life. 

Dr Steel adds: “By identifying the key factors affecting access to patient care, health service providers can concentrate on improving certain aspects of their services for particular groups of patients.”

Further information on the project is available on its project page.  

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The NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme is managed by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC). NETSCC is part of the University of Southampton funded by the NIHR, with specific contributions from the CSO in Scotland and NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

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