Is extending eligibility for adult social care better than investing more in existing users in England? A cross-sectional evidence for multiple financial years

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OBJECTIVES: Publicly funded adult social care (ASC) in England aims to improve quality of life through the provision of services for individuals with care needs due to physical and/or mental impairment or illness. Access to these services, however, is often restricted to contain public expenditure. With a fast-growing care need, information on whether extending eligibility is good value for money becomes policy-relevant.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: This study investigates the effect of extending ASC eligibility on user care-related quality of life (CRQoL), a policy-relevant measure of quality of life.

DESIGN: We use English cross-sectional survey data from 2017/2018 to 2019/2020 on users receiving publicly funded long-term support including domiciliary and other community-based social care, as well as residential and nursing care from local authorities responsible for ASC. We employ the two-stage least square method to estimate the impact of ASC expenditure on CRQoL at various levels of ASC expenditure in each financial year. This includes the CRQoL effect of increasing expenditure from zero to some level, which captures the effect of extending ASC eligibility to new users.

RESULTS: We find that publicly funded ASC improves the CRQoL of both existing and newly eligible users, although the latter are likely to experience greater CRQoL gains. Moreover, from 2017/2018 to 2019/2020, spending as much as an average user for a newly eligible user costs between £54 224 and £77 778 per social care-quality-adjusted life year (SC-QALY) gained. These results are statistically significant at the 5% level. Compared with this finding, increasing expenditure for an existing user has always a higher cost per SC-QALY gained.

CONCLUSIONS: Extending ASC eligibility to new users is likely to be more cost-effective compared with using the same resources to increase expenditure for existing users.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere070833
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2023.


  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • England
  • Eligibility Determination
  • Social Support

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