Using hospital admissions data for 2005-2007 this paper examines variations in avoidable hospital admission rates between general practitioner surgeries in Christchurch, New Zealand. There is a substantial variation in rates between surgeries which largely reflects the influence of material deprivation and also the independent effect of ethnicity. By contrast, other quantitative measures of primary care provision were insignificant. There was also a wide variation between practices in the uptake of Care Plus funding for patients with chronic conditions. Practice deprivation, ethnicity and age only explained a minor part of this variation. The findings suggest a need for possible strategies, in particular a greater targeting of funding to high risk patients in more deprived practices, to reduce hospitalisation. The wide variability in general practice use of hospital services needs further study to identify possible individual and contextual explanations.
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