Objective: In countries where the National Health Service provides universal health coverage, socioeconomic position should not influence the quality of health care. We examined whether socioeconomic position plays a role in short-term mortality and waiting time for surgery after hip fracture.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: and participants From the Hospital Information System database, we selected all patients, aged at least 65 years and admitted to acute care hospitals in Rome for a hip fracture between 1 January 2006 and 30 November 2007. The socioeconomic position of each individual was obtained using a city-specific index of socioeconomic variables based on the individual's census tract of residence.
Main outcome measures: Three different outcomes were defined: waiting times for surgery, mortality within 30 days and intervention within 48 h of hospital arrival for hip fracture. We used a logistic regression to estimate 30-day mortality and a Cox proportional hazard model to calculate hazard ratios of intervention within 48 h. Median waiting times were estimated by adjusted Kaplan-Meyer curves. Analyses were adjusted for age, gender and coexisting medical conditions.
Results: Low socioeconomic level was significantly associated with higher risk of mortality [adjusted relative risk (RR) = 1.51; P < 0.05] and lower risk of early intervention (adjusted RR = 0.32; P < 0.001). Socioeconomic level had also an effect on waiting times within 30 days.
Conclusions: Individuals living in disadvantaged census tracts had poorer prognoses and were less likely than more affluent people to be treated according to clinical guidelines despite universal healthcare coverage.