Warning of £4bn bill to treat long-term conditions

THE cash-strapped NHS may need to find an additional £4bn every year to care for people with long-term conditions, MPs warn today.

The Health Select Committee said the issue was one of the “biggest challenges” facing the health service.

There is a rising tide of patients who suffer from long-term conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, dementia and arthritis. At the same time the number of patients with more than one long-term condition is also rapidly increasing.

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Caring for these patients currently accounts for around 70 per cent of the NHS budget in England.

But MPs on the committee warn that demand for services is already exceeding available funding and the situation is only likely to “worsen”.

Estimates suggest that the NHS spends around £1,000 a year treating someone with one of these health issues, someone with two conditions costs around £3,000 and a person with three will need NHS funding to the tune of around £8,000 a year.

Former GP Sarah Wollaston, who now chairs the committee, said: “In 2012 we had over 15 million people who were living with at least one long-term condition but by 2025 there will be 18 million.

“We feel that there needs to be a much greater sense of urgency as to how we’re going to deal with that, not only in financial terms but the impact on people.”

In their report, the MPs said: “The focus on treating fewer people with long-term conditions in hospital is the wrong one: what the Government and NHS England should be addressing are the factors which drive people with long-term conditions into acute hospitals through A&E in the first place.

“Cutting acute services for long-term conditions without ensuring that primary and community care services were geared up to manage the care of people with long-term conditions would be a recipe for disaster.”

Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for long-term conditions, said: “We are already working on a number of wide-ranging initiatives including incentives for proactive care, work to support the frail and elderly and the integration of physical and mental health care.”