The increasing burden of chronic illness is one of the greatest challenges facing health systems globally. In the UK, approximately 18 million people live with a long term or chronic condition and this number is expected to double by 2030. Approximately 80% of GP consultations, 60% of days spent in hospital and two thirds of all emergency hospital admissions are associated with chronic conditions (Department of Health 2004).
Managing long term and chronic conditions currently accounts for almost 70% of the NHS budget and these costs are projected to increase significantly given the ageing population and escalating risk factors such as obesity and inactivity.
Long term and chronic conditions can have profound and far reaching implications on all aspects of peoples’ lives and can present patients (and families) with a spectrum of needs.
People living with a long term or chronic condition require support, care and rehabilitation from a wide range of professionals in health, social and voluntary care sectors. In addition, effective health promotion, prevention, self-care and self-management will help ensure that chronic illnesses are avoided wherever possible and that people are more informed to safely and effectively manage their health and wellbeing.
This requires complex responses over extended periods of time, coordinated, proactive and collaborative input from the health, social care and voluntary sectors, patients, carers and lay personnel (as in the Expert Patient Programme). These need to be optimally embedded with systems which actively promote and support sustainable stakeholder collaboration and patient empowerment.