In the News: Long-Term Illness Care

Recent news reports have drawn attention to the number of patients with long-term illnesses being cared for by the NHS. The reports explain that these patients account for around 77% of hospital beds, and that the NHS plan to reduce this number by instead referring patients to community care. Despite this proposed solution, the idea has not been met with high hopes by MPs, as it is believed community services will not be able to provide the same level of care that is required.

The Health Select Committee's report on the matter states that 70% of the NHS’s annual expenditure is spent on the 15 million patients in England that need care for a long-term illness. As well as this, it is explained that in order to sustain the same level of care as the number of cases continues to rise, by 2016 the NHS will require an extra £4 billion of annual funding.

In the reports, a long-term illness is defined as one which is incurable, but can be managed with regular medication and hospital appointments for further treatments. In England, the more common illnesses in question include diabetes and heart disease, as such conditions require regular check-ups, tests and - in some cases - operations.

The news reports follow stories from earlier in the year indicating the same problem, raising questions as to the possible issue of a shortage of GPs in training, as this service forms part of the community care the NHS aims to seek more support from.

As a way to remedy the situation, the NHS has started a plan to encourage collaboration between itself and local government departments, helping to alleviate some of the pressure they are currently faced with. The idea behind this is that other services such as housing and transport should be relied upon rather than just healthcare, in order to approach a more collaborative solution.

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