Socioeconomic inequality in access to timely and appropriate care in emergency departments

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In publicly-funded healthcare systems, waiting times for care should be based on need rather than ability to pay. Studies have shown individuals with lower socioeconomic status face longer waits for planned inpatient care, but there is little evidence on inequalities in waiting times for emergency care. We study waiting times in emergency departments (EDs) following arrival by ambulance, where health consequences of extended waits may be severe. Using data from all major EDs in England during the 2016/17 financial year, we find patients from more deprived areas face longer waits during some parts of the ED care pathway. Inequalities in waits are small, but more deprived individuals also receive less complex ED care, are less likely to be admitted for inpatient care, and are more likely to re-attend ED within, and die shortly after, attendance. Patient-physician interactions and unconscious bias towards more deprived patients may be important sources of inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102668
JournalJournal of Health Economics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Aug 2022


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