Investigating regional variation of respiratory infections in a general practice syndromic surveillance system.
Smith S., Morbey R., de Lusignan S., Pebody RG., Smith GE., Elliot AJ.
BACKGROUND: Established surveillance systems can follow trends in community disease and illness over many years. However, within England there are known regional differences in healthcare utilisation, which can affect interpretation of trends. Here, we explore regional differences for a range of respiratory conditions using general practitioner (GP) consultation data. METHODS: Daily data for respiratory conditions were extracted from a national GP surveillance system. Average daily GP consultation rates per 100 000 registered patient population were calculated by each region of England and for each study year (2013-17). Consultation rates and incidence rate ratios were also calculated for each condition by deprivation quintile and by rural, urban, and conurbation groups. RESULTS: Upper and lower respiratory tract infections and asthma were higher in the North and the Midlands than in London and the South, were highest in the most deprived groups and tended to be higher in more urban areas. Influenza-like illness was highest in the least deprived and rural areas. CONCLUSIONS: There are consistent differences in GP consultation rates across the English regions. This work has improved our understanding and interpretation of GP surveillance data at regional level and will guide more accurate public health messages.