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BMC Health Serv Res. 2011 Nov 2;11:297. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-11-297.

Does quality of care for hypertension in primary care vary with postcode area deprivation? An observational study.

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  • 1School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK.



Hypertension is a common major risk factor for stroke and coronary heart disease. Little is known about how achievement of financially incentivised and non-incentivised indicators of quality of care varies with deprivation, or about the effect of financial incentives on health inequalities in hypertension. General practices in the UK have received financial incentives for high quality care since 2004. This study set out to assess the variations in achievement of incentivised and non-incentivised quality indicators for hypertension by patient area deprivation, before and after the introduction of financial incentives.


Achievement of 14 quality indicators for hypertension in 304 patient participants in 18 general practices in Norfolk, England was assessed one year before (2003) and one year after (2005) the introduction of financial incentives. Four indicators were incentivised and 10 were non-incentivised. Each participant's postcode was linked to an index of multiple deprivation score.


The range of achievement of incentivised quality indicators was 65-94% in the least deprived third of participants, and 77-94% in the most deprived third in 2003 and 2005 combined. For non-incentivised indicators, the range was 7-85% in the least deprived and 24-93% in the most deprived third.Achievement of incentivised quality indicators in 2003 and 2005 combined did not vary significantly by area deprivation. Achievement of three of 10 non-incentivised indicators was higher in participants from more deprived postcode areas: providing lifestyle advice (odds ratio 1.34, 95% confidence interval 1.00-1.79), assessment of peripheral vascular disease (1.54, 1.02-2.35) and electrocardiography (1.38, 1.04-1.82).


Participants from more deprived areas received at least the same, and sometimes better, quality of care than those from less deprived areas. Quality of care for hypertension in general practice may not follow the inequitable distribution seen with some other conditions.

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