The poorest people in England are 29% more likely to die after a common surgical procedure than those who are more affluent, research suggests.
A new study on 58,790 people who underwent an emergency laparotomy (often for severe abdominal pain) found that, even after adjusting for pre-existing health conditions at the time of surgery, the risk of dying was 29% higher for those in the most deprived parts of the country compared with the richest.
Researchers looked into socioeconomic factors such as a patient's income, education, standard of housing and overall access to healthcare.
The results showed that these factors influenced the risk of dying within 30 days of an emergency laparotomy regardless of what health conditions the patient had.
Lead author Dr Tom Poulton, from University College London, said: "We need to be looking beyond acute patient care provided immediately before, during and after surgery.
"As well as raising awareness of health issues, we should be looking beyond the normal remit of healthcare professionals, to housing, childcare, education, employment and working conditions, in determining how to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients undergoing major surgery."
Co-author Professor Ramani Moonesinghe, from University College London, said: "We are satisfied we have identified a significant association between patient poverty and the mortality rates following this commonly performed emergency procedure.
"However, currently there are no data to indicate the precise reasons for this link.
"Possible causes could include lifestyle-related risks, delayed diagnosis or presentation to hospital, along with follow-up access to healthcare services after discharge."
An emergency laparotomy is a risky procedure, with 5% to 24% of patients dying within 30 days of surgery.
More than 50,000 people in the UK are thought to undergo the operation each year.