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Socioeconomic inequalities in the use of NHS care in England

Providing equal access to healthcare to all solely on the basis of need was a founding principle of the NHS. Despite this, large differences persist in the amount of care used by people living in different areas and with different backgrounds.

In new IFS work, we outline what has happened to educational inequalities in health care in England since 2002-03. Using detailed new data on hospital use and the socioeconomic background of a representative sample of the population in England aged 65 and above, we examine how patients with identical health needs but different educational attainment vary in their use of NHS hospitals. At this event we explored the findings of this research.

Our panel then examined how inequalities in hospital and wider health care use are likely to change in future. Mounting demographic challenges and COVID-19 will likely have large impacts on the use of NHS services. We examined how these events may affect socioeconomic inequalities in the of NHS care, and what policymakers could do to address these issues.


  • Ben Zaranko, Institute for Fiscal Studies
  • Anita Charlesworth, Health Foundation
  • Martin McKee, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

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