Osteoporosis treatment to cost £6bn by 2036

THE cost of treating osteoporosis on the NHS is set to treble over the next 25 years unless action is taken to identify and treat people with fragile bones, a leading medical charity warns today.

Spending on fractures could reach more than 6 billion by 2036, up from the current level of 2bn, according to a report by the National Osteoporosis Society.

The condition - in which bones become thin and break easily due to mineral loss - is mostly associated with women, but hip fracture rates in men are predicted to match that of women during the timescale.

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Currently one in two women and one in five men over 50 in the UK will break a bone, mainly due to poor bone health.

The cost of treating a hip factor is approximately 5,000, but rises to 15,000 after rehabilitation and other care costs are added.

The report, A Fragile Future, released to mark the charity's 25th anniversary, found many people are experiencing lengthy delays in being diagnosed and then face a "post code lottery" in accessing care.

Experts say people's conditions deteriorate before they can access good treatments while patients have to prove their osteoporosis has arisen "from one of a range of comparatively rare risk factors before they are given treatment".

The survey found that 70 per cent of those who went for treatment after breaking a bone said the condition was not discussed by health professionals. Twenty-six per cent of respondents were only diagnosed after suffering multiple fractures.

Claire Severgnini, chief executive of the National Osteoporosis Society, said: "The last 25 years has seen improvements, but there are still too many people with fragile bones who are not receiving basic services and care.

"If someone has risk factors, like a parental history of hip fracture, or if they break a bone following a minor bump or fall, it should prompt a simple investigation and appropriate treatment.

The number of bed days attributed to hip fractures north of the Border is expected to increase by 13 per cent between 2008 and 2036.

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Older people who have suffered a fracture are sometimes referred for a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan to measure bone density, but access is not automatic.

However, Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients' Association, says these should be offered to everyone aged 50 and over.

"These scans should be offered in the same way as mammograms and bowel cancer tests," she added.

"It is a nonsense that we are even talking about hip replacements almost as a form of treatment."A spokeswoman from the Scottish Government said: "The Scottish Government has already worked with health boards to do all it can to train staff in limiting falls of elderly patients within our hospitals and we will now move that training out into care homes across Scotland.

"We would also encourage people to do what they can themselves to lead a healthy, active life to help reduce the chances of osteoporosis in older age."