The UK is at risk of being ‘overwhelmed’ by long-term conditions, a report from think tank The Work Foundation has warned.
Long-term conditions are responsible for a ‘double hit’ on the nation’s finances, it said, costing the NHS over £32bn a year and contributing a huge burden on the economy due to lost work days.
Long-term conditions are thought to cost the economy over £100bn a year – and this is projected to become ‘significantly worse’ unless the NHS and government take action, The Work Foundation said.
The report, which mainly covers six long-term conditions – psoriasis, diabetic macular oedema, asthma, schizophrenia, heart failure and MS – estimates that they collectively cost the NHS £32bn in direct expenditure a year.
Care for eye and skin conditions has been particularly under-prioritised, it said, and the current limited access to specialist care can be detrimental to patients and increase costs.
The NHS spent around 2% of its budget – around £2.1bn in 2012/13 – on treating skin conditions. But total spend is likely to be much higher when accounting for indirect costs resulting from reduced mobility and comorbidities.
GP dermatology training
A third of patients with psoriasis report anxiety and depression, with one in 10 having contemplated suicide. One in six go on to develop psoriatic arthritis.
This will require greater investment on skin conditions in GP training – particularly on psoriasis as a long term condition with consequent psychosocial effects – and an increase in provision of specialist dermatologists, the report said.
Other key recommendations include promoting coordinated care of heart failure by a multidisciplinary team including GPs, nurses and specialists and working across specialties to improve MS care.
The authors also call on the government to consider the use of tax rebates and giving employers financial incentives to keep people with long term conditions in work.
Dr Zofia Bajorek, report author and researcher at The Work Foundation, said: ‘Unless immediate action is taken the pressure on the economy and the NHS will become unbearable in the future. That means an even greater portion of our nation’s finances will need to be spent on healthcare and welfare than ever before.’