To determine whether access to rapid access chest pain clinics of people with recent onset symptoms is equitable by age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and gender, according to need.
Retrospective cohort study with ecological analysis.
Patients referred from primary care to five rapid access chest pain clinics in secondary care, across England.
Of 8647 patients aged ≥35 years referred to chest pain clinics with new-onset stable chest pain but no known cardiac history, 7570 with documented census ward codes, age, gender and ethnicity comprised the study group. Patients excluded were those with missing date of birth, gender or ethnicity (n=782) and those with missing census ward codes (n=295).
Effects of age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status on clinic attendance were calculated as attendance rate ratios, with number of attendances as the outcome and resident population-years as the exposure in each stratum, using Poisson regression. Attendance rate ratios were then compared with coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality ratios to determine whether attendance was equitable according to need.
Adjusted attendance rate ratios for patients aged >65 years were similar to younger patients (1.1, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.16), despite population CHD mortality rate ratios nearly 15 times higher in the older age group. Women had lower attendance rate ratios (0.81, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.84) and also lower population CHD mortality rate ratios compared with men. South Asians had higher attendance rates (1.67, 95% CI 1.57 to 1.77) compared with whites and had a higher standardised CHD mortality ratio of 1.46 (95% CI 1.41 to 1.51). Although univariable analysis showed that the most deprived patients (quintile 5) had an attendance rate twice that of less deprived quintiles, the adjusted analysis showed their attendance to be 13% lower (0.87, 95% CI 0.81 to 0.94) despite a higher population CHD mortality rate.
There is evidence of underutilisation of chest pain clinics by older people and those from lower socioeconomic status. More robust and patient focused administrative pathways need to be developed to detect inequity, correction of which has the potential to substantially reduce coronary mortality.
Is access to chest pain clinics of people with recent onset symptoms equitable according to local need and consistent with national policy.
Need for evaluation in chest pain clinics will vary according to the variable incidence of heart disease in different age, gender, socioeconomic and ethnic groups.
There is evidence of underutilisation of chest pain clinics by older people and those from lower socioeconomic status.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Large, diverse and unselected patient population with uniformly collected patient-level data, allowing robust comparisons between demographic and clinical groups.
Ecological fallacy with respect to age and sex has been avoided by applying an enhanced ecological analysis.
Need to use census wards, not postcodes, as the smallest geographical areas for which mortality and demographic data were available.
Ethnicity was not based on self-ascription.