Background: Increasingly, additional resources for infrastructure development and healthcare are directed at deprived areas. The commitment of the present government to reducing inequalities in health is likely to focus attention on identifying and providing special help to areas considered to be particularly deprived. This study compares the use of different deprivation measures at electoral ward level to rank wards according to deprivation and illustrates how the use of different deprivation measures may influence resourcing decisions.
Methods: The 20 local authority electoral wards making up the city of Plymouth, Devon, were studied. Some of the wards within Plymouth are amongst the most deprived in England. The scores for each ward for different measures of deprivation--Townsend, Jarman, the Department of Environment's Index of Local Conditions and Breadline Britain--were calculated and the wards ranked according to the deprivation score for each measure. Decisions on funding bids and resource allocation for wards within Plymouth were reviewed in the light of the relative deprivation status of the wards according to the various measures.
Results: The ranking of electoral wards for the selected measures of deprivation showed variation according to the measure used. The measure of deprivation chosen may have influenced resourcing decisions.
Conclusion: Measures of deprivation are closely correlated one with another. However, by judicious choice of the deprivation measure used a ward can achieve a marked change in rank order. This may exert considerable influence on the decisions made by government departments, local authorities and health authorities when allocating resources.