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Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2012: Improved management of chronic disease should be a priority for the NHS

Hospitals are under pressure as increasing numbers of elderly people, a report by experts suggest.

Dr Foster’s Hospital Guide 2012, launched last week, is the latest version of the research analyst’s annual survey which publishes data for trusts across England. Two findings from this year’s report demonstrate why improvements in management of chronic diseases are urgently required:

“Hospitals are under pressure from the rising numbers of emergency admissions, particularly among frail elderly patients. For 48 weeks a year most trusts are more than 90% occupied. High levels of occupancy make it harder to provide a safe, effective service.”

“29% of hospital bed days are taken by patients whose admission might have been avoided if their care was better managed. This includes patients who could have been seen as day cases, patients within a week of discharge. While there will always be a need to admit patients in all of these categories, better community and primary care could reduce the numbers.”

What really struck us was the impact that chronic diseases and our ageing population are having on hospitals and A&E departments in particular, across the length and breadth of England.

We believe passionately that improved management of chronic diseases and personalised treatment regimes should be an urgent priority for the NHS. If clinicians, NHS managers and policy makers were ever unsure of the urgency of the matter, they now have hard evidence on which to act.

The UK desperately needs to improve our management of chronic diseases, particularly diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, dementia and cardiovascular disease. Chronic diseases are increasingly something that people now live with rather than die from, and if poorly managed, they place an escalating and unsustainable burden on the NHS.

There is a growing body of evidence to indicate that health systems that employ informatics and information technology to actively manage high-risk patients with complex needs demonstrate improved patient outcomes.

By enabling integrated chronic disease management through the use of informatics and IT, the NHS can support and strengthen the co-ordinated care provided by a range of health services and providers. Combine this approach with a move from reacting to acute needs of individuals to more proactive attempts to enhance patients’ health, and the need for hospital admissions will reduce. It would also empower patients to take a more active role in self-management, by providing assistance to make lifestyle and behavioural choices.

By empowering our partners to transform the way they use healthcare data through the use of informatics, we are helping them to start making the changes required to deliver improved services and outcomes to support patients with chronic illnesses and long term conditions.

Aridhia and our partners appreciate that progress can’t be made on issues as complex as chronic diseases without collaboration, at both organisational and national levels. Providing safe, effective and personalised care is not just about compassion at the hospital bedside; collaboration and innovation in how we use data is vital in order to support patients across the wider health system.