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Impact of Pay-for-Performance on Disparities in Diabetes Management in UK Primary Care

Health systems like the UK's NHS aim to provide high-quality care for all groups of patients. Consequently, it is important to examine the impact of new initiatives in the delivery of health care on health disparities. A recent study by Fiona Hamilton and colleagues published in the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management examined the impact of a major pay-for-performance initiative introduced into UK primary care in 2004 on disparities in diabetes management. The study used data from the UK General Practice Research Database, which is widely used for epidemiological and health services research. The authors found that existing disparities in risk factor management (HbA1c, blood pressure, cholesterol) narrowed between men and women. Younger patients (under 45 years of age) with diabetes appear to have benefited less from Pay for Performance incentives than older patients, resulting in some widening of existing age group disparities. Patients living in affluent and deprived areas appeared to have derived a similar level of benefit from pay for performance. They concluded that a realignment of financial incentives may be required to further reduce health disparities. This could include a greater focus on outcome-based targets, such as HbA1c control and larger incentives for GPs working in more deprived areas.

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