British Adults With Chronic Health Conditions or Impairments Face Significant Barriers to Accessing Health Services

Public Health. 2012 Nov;126(11):920-7. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2012.08.003. Epub 2012 Sep 5.


Objectives: To quantify the extent to which adults with chronic health conditions or impairments in Great Britain experience barriers to accessing health services in comparison to adults without impairments.

Study design: Secondary analysis of cross-sectional population-based survey data from the Life Opportunities Survey.

Methods: The Life Opportunities Survey interviewed a nationally representative sample of 37,513 individuals age 16 or older from 19,951 households. A subset of questions addressed disability status, health conditions and impairments, and participation restrictions in accessing public services. Simple bivariate and multivariate logistic regression (controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity) analyses were undertaken to estimate the risk that specific condition/impairment types were associated with barriers to accessing health care.

Results: Individuals with chronic health conditions or impairments were significantly more likely to report difficulties accessing health care services. Additionally, individuals in each condition/impairment group had significantly higher odds of experiencing a variety of barriers, including discrimination by healthcare staff, inexperienced or unhelpful staff, lack of help with communication, lack of information, problems with transportation, difficulty getting into buildings, difficulty using facilities, and lack of confidence or anxiety.

Conclusions: Individuals with chronic health conditions or impairments are significantly more likely than their non-impaired peers to experience barriers in accessing health care. These barriers are likely to exacerbate disability and may increase the likelihood of developing additional preventable health conditions. As a result, they may contribute towards the health inequalities experienced by disabled people. The existence of these barriers also suggests that health care provision in Great Britain is failing to meet its statutory requirement to provide 'reasonable adjustments' to ensure equality of access for disabled adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom