Ambulances are four times more likely to be called out to deprived areas than the most affluent areas, a ground-breaking analysis has found.

The research by East Midlands Ambulance Service is believed to be the first in the UK to link ambulance activity and health inequalities.

Project lead Chris Boyce, the service's director of business development and community relations, said the strength of the relationship was striking. She said links between deprivation and poor health were well known but the difference in emergency call-out rates was stark.

The research also shows falls were the most common reason for 999 calls in contrast to common perceptions that ambulances most often deal with road accidents and heart attacks.

The analysis, which was carried out with Leicestershire County and Rutland primary care trust, showed ambulance service data was a valuable but "under-rated resource", Ms Boyce told HSJ.

"If we can understand why we are going out to falls more than anything else and why people in the most deprived areas are four times more likely to use our services, then we can start to work with commissioners, local social services and the voluntary sector to help and support those individuals," she said.

When it came to dealing with falls, many patients did not need to be admitted to hospital and ambulance crews were simply putting them back to bed, she added. She noted that it might be more appropriate for another service to respond or ensure that patients got the social care support or home adaptations that would prevent falls happening.