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Long-term conditions

 

It’s estimated that GPs spend half their appointment helping people with long term conditions and that 7 in 10 hospital beds are used to look after people in the same group.

Twenty-six million of us in the UK live with a long term condition – and around 10 million have more than one. Supporting people with long term conditions is a priority in the NHS, with a number of plans and initiatives in place to keep people well and help them manage their own health.

 

What is a long-term condition?

By long-term, we mean a chronic illness, disease or other condition for which there is no cure. Medication and other treatments are used to control the condition and help people live as normal a life as possible.

Some common examples include diabetes, hypertension, depression and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

 

What causes long term conditions?

Each condition has a number of different risk factors. Some of them are things we can control and manage, some are not.

Age is a significant factor. Fifty-eight per cent of people aged over 60 have a long term condition, whereas in people under 40 the figure is around 14%.

This is why things like NHS Health Checks have been put in place. After you turn 40, you’ll be invited by your GP to have a health check. The purpose is to spot any early warning signs of potential conditions that might develop. Early detection, alongside lifestyle adjustments or treatment, can have a big impact on reducing the chance of conditions developing.

In terms of lifestyle, there are factors that make the odds of developing long-term conditions more or less likely:

Increases risk Reduces risk
Obesity Physical activity
Poor diet Healthy diet
Smoking Strong social networks
Air pollution
Alcohol

 

Socio-economically, there is a higher prevalence of multiple long-term conditions in deprived areas. And in terms of demographics, evidence has shown higher instances in older people, women and people from some ethnic groups.

 

How GP practices support people with long-term conditions

GP practices will invite anyone with a long-term condition to an annual review. The purpose of the review is to see how your condition is affecting your health and well being. 

If your condition has got better or worse, you can discuss the potential causes and any improvements that can be made.

For people with more than one condition, the approach is slightly different. Rather than multiple reviews of each individual illness, there is a more holistic approach. 

You’ll be invited by your practice to a single, more detailed review – usually around the month of your birthday – to discuss all your conditions collectively. 

Because conditions can impact one another, it is essential to look at your health as a whole.

 

How Primary Care Network team support people with long term conditions

One of the central aims of Primary Care Networks (PCNs) is to raise the overall standard of health and well being for patients. 

Each PCN has staff with specific expertise to work with patients. Here are some examples:

Clinical Pharmacists – experts in medication – will hold reviews with people who regularly take multiple types of prescribed medication. Just as conditions impact each other, so do medicines. Pharmacists can monitor and interpret this information and help patients get the best outcomes from their medication.

With lifestyle and diet substantial risk factors in developing long-term conditions, PCN Dietitians play a vital role. As with Pharmacists, Dietitians interpret nutritional information and give people a much better, more precise understanding of how to make the best decisions for their health.

Physical activity and strong social networks help reduce the risk of long-term conditions. PCNs employ Health and Well Being Coaches to help people get moving again, with assessment, targetted exercise plans and social interaction through joint classes. 

Social Prescribing Link Workers (SPLWs) also add to this, connecting people to local community organisations and combatting loneliness or social isolation. SPLWs support people with a wide range of emotional, social and practical needs.

You can find out more about our PCN Team and the services they offer on our Network website.