People who are living in the most deprived areas of the country will develop multiple health conditions 10 years earlier than those in the least deprived areas, according to research from the Health Foundation.
People in these deprived areas are more likely to have two or more health conditions at the age of 61, compared to 71 years old in the least deprived areas.
The analysis reveals that approximately 14.2 million people have two or more conditions, representing nearly a quarter (24%) of all adults living in England. Over half (55%) of hospital admissions and outpatient visits, and three quarters (75%) of primary care prescriptions are for people living with two or more conditions.
The number of people living with multiple conditions is expected to continue to grow, say the Health Foundation. Its analysis projects that this will lead to an increase in total hospital activity by 14%, at a cost of £4bn, over the next five years. A sustainable NHS and social care system will need to improve both the quality and cost effectiveness of care for people with multiple conditions.
The research also finds that people with four or more conditions have almost three times as many primary care appointments per year as people with one condition. However, despite their more complex needs, appointments are on average only 14 seconds longer. This reflects ongoing pressures in general practice, which should be addressed.
The analysis also finds that almost a third (30%) of people with four or more conditions are under 65 and this percentage is higher for people living in socioeconomically deprived areas. This highlights that living with multiple conditions affects a broad range of people and is not always related to old age. Improving care for multiple conditions requires action across the NHS and other sectors, not only in services targeting older people, says the Health Foundation.
Sarah Deeny, Assistant Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation said, ‘Nearly one in four people living in England have two or more health conditions, which may lead to poorer quality of life and a greater risk of premature death. This number is expected to grow. To care for people living with multiple conditions effectively, it is critical that the NHS long-term plan identifies the complexity of their needs.
‘Daily life for people with multiple conditions can mean an overwhelming focus on managing their symptoms and other tasks like engaging with the health care system. Patients need support to help them manage their care. Resourcing primary care so GPs, nurses and other staff have the time to work together with patients to help them manage their conditions better is critical. So is ensuring that care in hospitals is better coordinated, for example between different specialties.
‘People’s health is a result of a wide range of social determinants including their quality of housing and education, where they live, access to good quality work and affordable food. To address the fact that people living in deprived areas are more likely to have multiple conditions and ensure everyone has the best opportunity to live a healthy life, cross-government action is needed to tackle the underlying causes of ill health.’