Rises in disease prevalence in UK

Disease prevalence recorded by GPs in the quality framework has risen by up to 14 per cent since it began in 2004/5, GP can reveal.

Provisional disease prevalence figures for 2006/7 in England from the quality management and analysis system (QMAS) also contain the first data on domains added in 2006/7.

Prevalence of hypothyroidism recorded by GPs has risen faster than any other domain, up 14 per cent from 2.18 to 2.49 per cent of the population.

Recorded prevalence of stroke, diabetes, and hypertension rose by around 10 per cent, while COPD increased by 5 per cent.

Prevalence of epilepsy recorded by GP practices is unchanged, while prevalence of CHD and asthma have dropped.

The average rise across these domains is around 6 per cent.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said prevalence had not risen, but GPs were working harder to identify disease.

'When you start case-finding systematically, as the quality framework incentivises you to, you find more,' he said.

Dr Buckman predicted preva-lence recorded by GP practices would continue to rise in most categories for around five years: 'After five years the prevalence will flatten out - if it changes then, something has happened.'

The QMAS data show that practices now have 0.9 per cent of their patients on cancer registers, compared to 0.51 per cent in 2004/5.

However, Swindon GP Dr Gavin Jamie explained: 'The figure is a running total which shows all patients added since 2003.'

Mental health prevalence has increased from 0.55 per cent in 2004/5 to 0.72 per cent in 2006/7, but the criteria have changed.

In the first two years of the quality framework, practices' registers showed patients with a severe mental illness. But the register now shows patients who have had a psychotic episode or bipolar disorder at any point in their life.

Prevalence data for domains added to the quality framework for the first time in 2006/7 has also been obtained by GP.

A total of 7 per cent of patients are on depression registers - this includes patients who have been diagnosed with depression in the last year and assessed.

GPs recorded that 19.56 per cent of their populations smoke, 0.26 per cent have learning disabilities, 7.22 per cent are obese, 1.3 per cent have AF and 0.4 per cent have dementia.

QMAS shows prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) as around 2.24 per cent, but experts believe this under-represents the true level of disease by around 50 per cent (CKD prevalence is less than half of true figure - GP, 2 March).

nick.bostock@haymarket.com

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