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1 in 6 say quality of life compromised by long term illness

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The NHS is spending £75 billion a year treating people with long term conditions (LTCs) – accounting for £7 in every £10 spent by the health service – yet too many people are still not receiving the care they need, warns a new report by The Richmond Group, a coalition of 10 leading health and social care charities.The report, Vital Signs: Taking the temperature of health and social care for services for people living with long term conditions, sets out how 15 million people[v]  in England (1 in 4) live with at least one LTC today. It argues that the state of care is inconsistent and that not enough people are getting the care and support they need to live well.With around 60 per cent saying their condition limits what they can do in their daily life[vi], LTCs are one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. That LTCs currently account for 70 per cent of hospital bed days and half of all GP appointments[viii] is further evidence that the NHS urgently needs to put this right; and good care would not only improve and save lives but also save NHS money.While the report acknowledges areas of excellent care, these are overshadowed by dangerous gaps in diagnosis, treatment, support and coordination of care for patients and this is having serious consequences. Shockingly, 80 per cent of diabetes-related amputations could be avoided if individuals had access to the right care and support. Similarly, 8 out of 10 people with asthma aren’t receiving care that meets the most basic clinical standards,despite two out of three asthma deaths being preventable with better routine care.The report shows that the emotional and psychological impact of LTCs continues to have a huge impact on patient outcomes, and that support to deal with these impacts cannot always be accessed; for example only 20 per of people receiving cardiac rehabilitation access psychological support[xii]. They also have an effect beyond the person with the LTC; more than 40 per cent of older carers report their mental-health has worsened in the past year.The report concludes that much more needs to be done to ensure all people living with LTCs receive the care and support they need. It suggests that over the next five years, the real measure of success of Government and NHS leaders at all levels in achieving this will be the extent to which the gaps highlighted in the report become a thing of the past, and how effectively local services are delivering care and support that truly meet the needs of their local communities.Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Too often, we are failing to provide the right level of care and support needed by people with long term conditions and as a direct result of inadequate care their health is being put at greater risk with devastating consequences. For example we are seeing people with diabetes lose limbs when an amputation could have been prevented, and people with asthma are dying unnecessarily. And it’s not just a case of immense, unnecessary human cost; with the NHS spending £7 in every £10 on managing long term conditions and their complications, sub-standard care is also putting huge strain on the NHS budget.“The health system urgently needs to address these issues so that all people living with long term conditions get the support and care they need for a good quality of life and better health outcomes. This includes supporting people to better manage their own health and care to avoid more serious and costly health complications, and joining up services around patients’ needs. The NHS Five Year Forward View sets out a vision of how we can achieve this. We now need to see our health and political leaders turn this vision into a reality, giving everyone living with a long term health condition the best chance of living a long and healthy life. Until then, thousands more people will be condemned to living with debilitating complications that could have been avoided, and early deaths, and the sustainability of our health service will be at considerable threat.”Tom Wright, Chief Executive of Age UK and Chair of The Richmond Group, said: “We have known for some time what needs to happen to support people with long term conditions to survive and thrive, so the challenge is putting that knowledge into practice for everyone, right across the NHS and within social care. With long term conditions affecting a massive one in six of us today, now is the time for action. If we can do this well we will not only save and improve lives, we will help the taxpayer too. That’s why we are calling on the next Government and healthcare leaders to commit to our vision for the next five years, so that the awful stories in this report become a thing of the past.”

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