The UK National Health Service aims to provide universal availability of healthcare, and eye-care availability was a primary driver in the development of the Scottish General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) model. Accordingly, a relatively equal distribution of optometry practices across socio-economic areas is required. We examined practice distribution relative to deprivation.
672 practices were sampled from nine Health Boards within Scotland. Practices were assigned a deprivation ranking by referencing their postcode with the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) tool (Scottish Executive National Statistics: General Report. 2016).
Averaged across Health Boards, the share of practices for the five deprivation quintiles was 25, 33, 18, 14 and 11% from most to least deprived area, respectively. Although there was some variation of relative practice distribution in individual Health Boards, 17 of the 45 regions (nine Health Boards, five quintiles) had a close balance between population and share of practices. There was no clear pattern of practice distribution as a function of deprivation rank. Analysis revealed good correlation between practice and population share for each Health Board, and for the combined data (R2 = 0.898, P < 0.01).
Distribution of optometry practices is relatively balanced across socio-economic areas, suggesting that differences in eye-examination uptake across social strata are unrelated to service availability.