Working paper 06/162 - Abstract

Distance Travelled in the NHS in England for Inpatient Treatment   (PDF, file 194 KB) (PDF, 345kB)

Carol Propper, Michael Damiani, George Leckie And Jennifer Dixon


To establish the distances travelled for inpatient treatment in England across different population groups prior to the introduction of policy to extend patient choice focusing particularly on differences by socio-economic status of patient.


Using HES data for 2003/04 the distance from the admitted patient’s residence to the NHS site of treatment was calculated for each admission. Distances were summed to electoral ward level to give the distribution of distances travelled at ward level. These were analysed to show the distance travelled for different admission types, ages of patient, rural/urban location, and the socio-economic deprivation of the population of the ward.


There is considerable variation in the distances travelled for hospital treatment between electoral wards. Some of this is explained by geographical location. Individuals located in wards in more rural areas travel further for elective, emergency and maternity admissions. But individuals located in highly deprived wards travel less far and this shorter distance is not explained just by the closer location of facilities to these wards.


Before the patient choice reforms were implemented, there were considerable differences between individuals in the distances they travel for hospital care. As patient choice is being actively rolled-out the factors that result in people in more deprived areas travelling less need to be better understood.

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