All health professionals – from optometrists to GPs and hospital specialists – will need to take a whole-patient approach to address the growing problem of English patients with multiple chronic conditions, health researchers emphasise.
A new University of Leicester study has found that the number of people with two or more chronic health issues looks to have risen by 10% in the last decade, an increased burden for the NHS.
The research, published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, followed more than 15,000 people in England for 10 years. The study found a rising proportion of people developed a second or third disease, said co-author and University of Leicester epidemiologist, Dr Nafeesa Dhalwani.
Chronic diseases monitored included glaucoma and macular degeneration, alongside conditions like diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
Dr Dhalwani told OT the health system would need to think differently about treatment to best address this growing issue.
She added: “In my view, at the moment, care of chronic conditions is all very segregated. Right now if you have an eye condition, you’re going to an optometrist and if you’ve got diabetes you’re going to a different specialist. What is really needed is better integration of that … Each care provider needs to have more responsibility for the patients.”
Currents records and provider communication channels were often not up to the task, Dr Dhalwani emphasised. A better option was a “central system that collects all that data without printed letters,” she said.
The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, also found that people who were more physically active were healthier.
Dr Dhalwani noted the move towards primary prevention was a positive development.
“If you can encourage people more to do preventative strategies, even light physical activity, there are benefits to long-term outcomes, to the people themselves, as well as the healthcare system,” she concluded.