To examine socioeconomic differences in general practice consultation rates among patients aged 65 years and over.
Secondary analysis of data from the fourth national survey of morbidity in general practice.
60 general practices in England and Wales.
71984 people aged 65 years and over.
Main outcome measures
Annual contact rates and home visiting rates with general practitioners and practice nurses.
Social class differences in contact rates were greatest in 65-74 year olds, with rates 23% higher in patients from social class V than in class I (4.82 v 3.93 per person). In 75-84 year olds there was no clear association between social class and contact rates, and in people aged 85 years contact rates were highest in patients from class I. Home visiting rates were twice as high in patients from class V as in patients from class I (1.38 v 0.66 per person). Contact rates were 17% higher in people living in communal establishments and 8% higher in those living alone than in those living with others but not in a communal establishment. 66% of contacts with patients in communal establishments and 26% of those with patients living alone were in patients’ homes compared with 18% with those living in standard accommodation. These differences persisted after adjustment in a generalised linear model.
Elderly people show socioeconomic differences in consultation rates. The extra workload generated by elderly people living alone and in communal establishments suggests additional payments to general practitioners are needed.
- Little is known about the effect of socioeconomic status on use of general practice services by elderly people
- In this national study contact rates were 14% higher and home visiting rates 109% higher in elderly patients from social class V than in patients from class I
- Contact rates were 17% higher in elderly people living in communal establishments and 8% higher in elderly people living alone than in those living in standard accommodation
- 66% of contacts with patients in communal establishments and 26% with those living alone were in patients’ homes compared with 18% of contacts with those in standard accommodation