Impact of UK NICE Clinical Guidelines 168 and social deprivation on access to interventional treatment for symptomatic varicose vein and specialist referral for leg ulceration
UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical guidelines (CG) 168, published in July 2013, aimed to improve the management of lower limb venous disease by newly recommending interventional treatment for all people affected by symptomatic varicose veins (VV) and specialist vascular referral for all people suffering from a leg ulcer (LU) that had been present for ≥2 weeks. This study aims to determine if CG168 has increased access to vascular services, particularly for the socially deprived, who might be expected to have greater need for such services.Methods
The study was performed in a highly multi-cultural, socio-economically diverse, mixed urban/suburban population of approximately 1.2 million people living in and around East Birmingham, UK. Index of multiple deprivation quintile (IMD-Q) was used as a measure of social deprivation to compare levels of social deprivation of people undergoing interventions for symptomatic VV or referred with an LU during 18-month periods before and after the publication of CG168. The referring general practitioner practices (GPPs) were also recorded.Results
There was no change in overall IMD-Q distribution before and after CG168 in terms of VV interventions. However, there was a non-significant increase in proportions of people classified as IMD-Q5 (the most deprived quintile). After CG168, fewer IMD-Q5 people with LU were referred, with a shift in referrals towards those from less socially deprived areas. More GPP referred people with both VV and LU after CG168, and those that referred patients before and after CG168 tended to refer more after CG168.Conclusions
CG168 has increased VV interventions as well as the number referred with LU. However, this improvement in access to treatment and referral may have disproportionately favoured the more socio-economic privileged. Professional and public education is required to ensure that the beneficial impact of the CG168 recommendations are maximised and that those with the greatest health needs have equal access to evidence-based management of their venous disease.