Millions of people in the UK including those with diabetes are living with multiple health conditions and need to receive more optimal treatment, a review suggests.
Experts from the Academy of Medical Sciences in the UK have released a report revealing how “clusters” of diseases are becoming more common, with the number of older patients with at least two conditions rising by almost 50% in the last 10 years.
Among these clusters include diabetes, high blood pressure and depression, but understanding these clusters is far from straightforward, and all too often patients are assigned to specialist doctors to treat each of the conditions individually.
To address this problem, the Academy of Medical Sciences has suggested extending the average GP consultation of 10 minutes.
“It’s extremely difficult to manage a patient with half a dozen diseases in 10 minutes,” said Professor Stephen MacMaho, chairman of the academy’s working group. “What happens is multiple consultations each focusing on the individual diseases.”
The average 65-year-old in the UK is likely to have three or more conditions, which rises to between five and seven among those aged 85 or older.
While this trend is more common in older people, increasing levels of obesity have been shown to fuel rates of type 2 diabetes and heart disease even in younger people.
Professor Melanie Davies, from the University of Leicester, said: “There are now over 500 children with type 2 diabetes. A child or adolescent with type 2 diabetes was almost unheard of just 20 years ago.”
Dr Lynne Corner, from the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and Faculty of Medical Sciences, said the NHS needs to accommodate the person rather than individual conditions, and reorganise their care accordingly.
“It can be a full time job being a patient,” she said. “It’s not unusual for someone to have five different appointments on five different days with five different teams and that can be really difficult to manage.”
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