🤩 Discover new information from across the web

postcode lottery definition


Define the English word postcode lottery below. Postcode lottery is a noun. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .



From postcode (sequence of letters and numbers added to a postal address to aid the sorting and delivery of post or mail; region denoted by a postcode) +‎ lottery (something decided by chance), referring to the fact that whether one is in a locality which receives adequate services is a matter of chance.[1]



postcode lottery (plural postcode lotteries)

  1. (Britain) The unequal availability of (often healthcare) services in different parts of the country, especially those services provided by local government.
    • 1998, Talking Politics, London: The Politics Association, ISSN 0955-8780, OCLC 956045016, page 138, column 3:
      There is a National Institute for Clinical Excellence which is working its way through examining drugs and treatments and dictating what treatment and drugs should be used across the country to prevent the postcode lottery of previous years.
    • 1999, “Managing the Urban Environment”, in Towards an Urban Renaissance: Final Report of the Urban Task Force Chaired by Lord Rogers of Riverside (Taylor & Francis e-Library), London: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, published 2005, →ISBN, part 2 (Making Towns and Cities Work), page 75:
      The Audit Commission has described the situation facing householders as a ‘postcode lottery’ but there is a discernible trend. You are more likely to receive poorer environmental services living in an urban authority than you are living in a shire district.
    • 2001, Polly Toynbee, discussant, “A Roundtable Discussion on the Prospects for a Progressive Century”, in Neal Lawson and Neil Sherlock, editors, The Progressive Century: The Future of the Centre-Left in Britain, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, DOI:10.1057/9781403900913, →ISBN, part 4 (Discussion and Endpiece), page 216:
      People were angry about the postcode lottery in the NHS [National Health Service], or that this school is better than that school and I can't get into the good school. Of all inequalities, these things make people far angrier than anything else, even angrier than financial inequalities.
    • 2002, Peter Nolan; Frances Badger, “Preface”, in Peter Nolan and Frances Badger, editors, Promoting Collaboration in Primary Mental Health Care, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire: Nelson Thornes, →ISBN, page xi:
      Yet, at the start of the twenty-first century, access to health care is not equitable; ‘postcodelotteries exist; and certain groups are favoured over others, who are equally deserving but who live in an inner-city area, are unemployed or do not have English as a first language, with the result that they cannot claim the services that were intended precisely for them.
    • 2003, Bill Coxall; Lynton Robins; Robert Leach, “Politics, Democracy and Power”, in Contemporary British Politics, 4th edition, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, DOI:10.1007/978-1-349-14821-9, →ISBN, part I (The Context of British Politics), page 13, column 2:
      A Briton's chance of finding a good school, or effective treatment for a medical condition, or any kind of NHS dentist, may depend on the ‘postcode lottery’. Thus not just the management of the economy but specific policies on public services create winners and losers [].
    • 2015, Lee Gregory, “Repositioning Time Bank Theory”, in Trading Time: Can Exchange Lead to Social Change?, Bristol: Policy Press, →ISBN, page 109:
      [T]he developing argument is that localism requires postcode lotteries; this is something that politicians need to become accustomed to if the local variations result from decisions at the local level by empowered citizens. However, there is some evidence which suggests that the public remain in favour of the equity argument over postcode lotteries.
    • 2017, Derek Fraser, “The Welfare State in Modern Britain”, in The Evolution of the British Welfare State, 5th edition, London: Palgrave, DOI:10.1057/978-1-137-60589-4, →ISBN, page 308:
      What has mainly concerned patients has been the regional variations in treatments available (the postcode lottery), the pressure on A & E [accident and emergency] departments, the lack of resources for post-hospital care and the provision of a seven-day hospital service (which has involved a bitter contractual dispute with junior doctors).
    • 2020, Stephen Muers, “Doing More Locally”, in Culture and Values at the Heart of Policy Making: An Insider’s Guide, Bristol: Policy Press, →ISBN, part 3 (How Policy Makers Can Take Culture Seriously), page 120:
      The discussion of 'street-level bureaucrats' in Chapter 2 set out a strong theoretical basis for scepticism about whether it is possible to avoid a postcode lottery, even in situations where services are controlled centrally. The potential points of variation and the ways in which culture in different front-line delivery institutions can affect results persist despite control mechanisms being imposed. So there is good reason to believe that the postcode lottery will continue even in situations of ostensible central control.



  1. ^ postcode lottery” under “postcode, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2019; “postcode lottery, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further reading