NHS Could Be 'Overwhelmed' By Long Term Illnesses

Conditions Like Dementia And Diabetes Are Taking Their Toll On Public Finances

06.01.2014

A leading NHS figure has said that people with long-term health problems are costing the NHS billions of pounds.

Indeed, the expense needed to support people with conditions like dementia, diabetes and heart disease, argues Dr Martin McShane, NHS England's director for patients with long-term conditions, will only grow in the future.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Dr McShane stated the NHS needs to rethink the way it cares for patients, as current arrangements do not suitably take into account the financial costs of inaction.

Further to this, the respected industry figure revealed statistics that show 70 per cent of the NHS' overall budget is used on people with long-standing health conditions, as well as £10.9 billion of the nation's £15.5 billion expenditure on social care.

"I would say it's the healthcare equivalent to climate change. It is putting pressure into the system, which, unless we change the way we address the problems, will overwhelm the system," said Dr McShane.

"This is the biggest problem facing the health system and the care system and the costs are growing year on year. They are huge already and they will continue to grow."

These thoughts were welcomed by professor Chris Ham, chief executive of the influential King's Fund health think tank, which has long called for the NHS to change tack on treatment programmes for people with long-term issues.

GPs, professor Ham argues, must be at the forefront of this change and need to take over from hospital doctors in the provision of primary care.

Government critics think there is currently too much of an emphasis on treating people after their conditions become acute and require hospitalisation.

Labour has claimed that austerity cuts being put into place across the NHS are reducing the quality of care for people with long-standing health problems, but the government has hit back in recent weeks by stating it has ringfenced funding for the organisation.

Expert Opinion
It is unsurprising to see debate across the political spectrum regarding the future of the NHS and how it provides care and support to all patients.

"While any discussion and consideration of how services can be improved is very welcome, it is vital that any changes or proposals are only implemented following serious examination of the impact that they could have on the quality of care that patients receive for any kind of illness or condition.

"These are key times for the NHS and how it evolves to meet the challenges which await it in the future – patient safety must always be a priority."
Lisa Jordan, Partner