A major new health information collection has highlighted the worse quality of life suffered by people with long-term conditions in poorer areas.
Questions about patients’ health-related quality of life were included in the GP Patient Survey for the first time from last year, with the first results reported last month.
The findings will be used to calculate several high-profile outcome performance indicators from April, both for the NHS Commissioning Board and clinical commissioning groups.
These include the second objective in the government’s “mandate” for the board – to “increase the number of quality adjusted life years for people with long-term conditions”. The board is expected to include similar indicators in CCGs’ performance frameworks, and use them to decide groups’ “quality premium” payments.
A technical document published by the Department of Health last week included an early analysis of findings. A regional breakdown shows the average quality of life score from 0 to 1 – with 1 being the highest possible. For people with long term conditions this varies from 0.62 in the North East to 0.71 in South Central.
The average for the most deprived third of people nationally is 0.59, whereas for the least deprived third it is 0.73.
HSJ analysis shows, for all patients regardless of long term conditions, in the North East 45 per cent of people said they suffer either moderate or extreme “pain or discomfort”, whereas in South Central the figure is 35 per cent.
In the North East and North West, 9 per cent of people said they have “problems washing or dressing myself”, whereas in South Central it is 5 per cent.
The DH document notes: “There are a number of questions that arise… What explains the significant variation by deprivation? What explains the significant variation by [region]?”
National Voices policy director Don Redding said the figures reflect that “both incidence and severity” of long term conditions were worse in poorer areas.
The NHS could help address it by promoting “health literacy and [supporting] people to become more active in condition management”, he said.
York University professor of health economics Andrew Street praised the NHS for running such a collection for the “first time around the world”.
However, he cautioned against using early findings to rate performance and award payments.
“If you start rewarding people on the basis of data that haven’t been properly analysed, clinicians won’t engage and participate,” he said.