The funding a GP practice receives is based on a formula that doesn’t account for the level of social deprivation in the area. Three GPs based in the London borough of Tower Hamlets used data to investigate how social deprivation affects the demand for their services. They were able to demonstrate that high levels of social deprivation, like those seen in Tower Hamlets, increased the burden on GP services. The findings suggest that the borough of Tower Hamlets was being significantly underfunded by the current formula.

Why was this work needed?

The process of allocating funding across the health service is complicated and challenging. It is not just a question of providing funding in proportion to the size of a local area’s population, funding also needs to reflect the type of people being served in that area and the specific needs they might have. Without detailed information on the populations of each area, the Government risks making incorrect funding decisions and leaving parts of the NHS underfunded.

What happened?

This research linked the level of social deprivation in a particular population to the number of GP consultations and showed that more deprived areas place a far higher level of demand on their GPs. The researchers were able to demonstrate that when social deprivation is taken into consideration, local areas need significantly more funding than the current formula provides, and they developed a new formula to calculate this. For example, applying their new formula to one of the most deprived boroughs in England, Tower Hamlets, would provide 33% more funding.

What were the benefits?

Data analysis of this kind leads to a better understanding of how money should be spent across the NHS. By comparing health data with population data, researchers can more accurately assess the needs of different populations and improve healthcare policies.

What type of data was involved?

This research linked GP consultation rates with age and sex in East London in 2013, comparing levels of social deprivation according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).

This research used de-personalised data within a secure environment, so no special legal permissions were necessary.

Who funded and collaborated on this work?

The research was conducted by three GPs working in Tower Hamlets and at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL).

Where can I go for more information?

GP funding formula masks major inequalities for practices in deprived areas