Did government spending cuts to social care for older people lead to an increase in emergency hospital admissions? An ecological study, England 2005-2016

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Paul Seamer
  • Simon Brake
  • Patrick Moore
  • Mohammed A Mohammed
  • Steven Wyatt

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • The Strategy Unit, NHS Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit, West Bromwich, UK.
  • Head Office, NHS Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group, Walsall, UK.
  • Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, Uk.
  • Faculty of Health Studies, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK.


OBJECTIVES: Government spending on social care in England reduced substantially in real terms following the economic crisis in 2008, meanwhile emergency admissions to hospitals have increased. We aimed to assess the extent to which reductions in social care spend on older people have led to increases in emergency hospital admissions.

DESIGN: We used negative binomial regression for panel data to assess the relationship between emergency hospital admissions and government spend on social care for older people. We adjusted for population size and for levels of deprivation and health.

SETTING: Hospitals and adult social care services in England between April 2005 and March 2016.

PARTICIPANTS: People aged 65 years and over resident in 132 local councils.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary outcome variable-emergency hospital admissions of adults aged 65 years and over. Secondary outcome measure-emergency hospital admissions for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSCs) of adults aged 65 years and over.

RESULTS: We found no significant relationship between the changes in the rate of government spend (£'000 s) on social care for older people within councils and our primary outcome variable, emergency hospital admissions (Incidence rate ratio (IRR) 1.009, 95% CI 0.965 to 1.056) or our secondary outcome measure, admissions for ACSCs (IRR 0.975, 95% CI 0.917 to 1.038).

CONCLUSIONS: We found no evidence to support the view that reductions in government spend on social care since 2008 have led to increases in emergency hospital admissions in older people. Policy makers may wish to review schemes, such as the Better Care Fund, which are predicated on a relationship between social care provision and emergency hospital admissions of older people.

Bibliographic note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere024577
JournalBMJ open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2019


  • emergency hospital admissions, government spending, older people, social care