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Admissions of inequality: emergency hospital use for children and young people

This briefing looks at the relationship between deprivation and the use of emergency hospital care by children and young people in England (between 2005/6 and 2015/16). It aims to describe and highlight areas of inequality and to explore how they have changed over time. As well as looking at the overall patterns of emergency hospital use, we focus in particular on three common conditions – asthma, diabetes and epilepsy – where more timely and effective primary, community or outpatient care could prevent admissions.

We find that while there has been progress in reducing the rate of emergency admissions for the most deprived children, a stubborn gap remains between rich and poor: children and young people from the most deprived areas are consistently more likely both to go to A&E and to need emergency hospital treatment than children from the least deprived areas.

Encouragingly, in many areas the inequality gap is narrowing. This may be due, in part, to certain national policy initiatives and quality improvement work. However, the size and persistence of any gap is a matter of concern. Indeed, there are areas where the most deprived children are experiencing a higher rate of emergency admissions than they were a decade ago and where this inequality gap is growing.