The NHS could save £800 million a year if patients were given more support managing long-term health conditions, new research has claimed.
A study by the Health Foundation published on Friday found that emergency hospital admissions could fall by as many as 436,000 cases a year in England if patients struggling to deal with conditions like diabetes, mental illness and asthma were given extra assistance.
Currently, patients with long-term medical conditions account for more than 60% of the 6 million emergency hospital admissions recorded in England each year.
The study also claimed that A&E attendances could decrease by 690,000 cases each year if improvements were made - 6% of the annual total.
“Patients with long-term conditions manage the majority of their care, spending less than 1% of their time in contact with a health professional,” said Sarah Deeny, assistant director of data analytics at the Health Foundation.
“Supporting these patients to develop the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their health as effectively as possible is critical to helping them stay well and help reduce the need for a vast number of emergency admissions, A&E attendances and GP appointments.”
A poll of more than 9,000 adults for the charity found that almost a quarter (22%) of people with a long-term medical condition feel “overwhelmed” attempting to manage their health.
Many of these patients fail to understand what they can do to manage their condition and as a result, do not take their medication or attend medical appointments, researchers said.
However, those who felt most confident dealing with their long-term health conditions had 38% fewer emergency admissions and 32% fewer A&E attendances than those who felt least able.
The Health Foundation is now calling for better support for those with long-term medical issues, including health coaching, peer support and improved access to apps that help people manage their symptoms.
Deeny added: “To ease pressure on services and improve patients’ quality of life, national policy makers and the local NHS must take action now to support people to better manage their long-term conditions.
“This should include NHS England prioritising support for self-management in the long-term plan for NHS.”
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for NHS England said: “As a result of better support from GP and community services, over the past five years your chance of being admitted to hospital as an emergency has actually fallen by more than 10% on a like for like basis, and this latest research confirms that the reforms now underway to join up care and support people at home are indeed the right ones.”
NHS hospitals struggled heavily this winter due to record bed occupancy putting strain on the service. Bed occupancy pressures in the weeks after Christmas saw the heads of major A&E departments write to Theresa May warning that patients were “dying prematurely in corridors”.