Aging population will impose huge NHS burden

December 08, 2005

New figures published by Dr Foster in this week's BMJ predict that the UK's ageing population will impose considerable workload and financial pressures on the NHS.

The number of people aged 65 and over is predicted to increase by about 53% between 2001 and 2031. This is likely to lead to an increase in the number of people who have chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers examined the possible impact of the ageing population on the expected number of people with three cardiovascular disorders: coronary heart disease, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm).

By 2031, they predict that the number of cases of coronary heart disease will increase by 44%, the number of cases of heart failure will increase by 54%, and the number of cases of atrial fibrillation will increase by 46%.

If realised, these increases will have important implications for the NHS, say the authors.

For example, statins have become the single biggest component of the NHS prescribing budget, and their cost to the NHS is likely to increase further. So too will the costs of other drugs, as well as the costs of diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, and regular monitoring of patients. New medical technologies may also have a considerable impact on future caseloads.

Obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure all increase the risk of developing heart disease, they write. "A key aim of government policy should therefore be to encourage people to remain active, engage in regular physical exercise, and refrain from behaviours that could have a detrimental effect on their health, such as smoking and overeating."
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BMJ

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