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New compendium reveals UK's health trends

According to the new Office of Health Economics Compendium of Health Statistics, the NHS' spending on healthcare is continuing to rise, and increased to an estimated 9.4 per cent of GDP in 2007/2008, which brings the UK close to the average in Europe, according to the Office of Health Economics.

According to the new Office of Health Economics (OHE) Compendium of Health Statistics, the NHS' spending on healthcare is continuing to rise, and increased to an estimated 9.4 per cent of GDP in 2007/2008, which brings the UK close to the average in Europe, according to the Office of Health Economics.

The Compendium, published on February 6, also revealed the UK NHS drugs bill has declined from 12.5 per cent of total NHS expenditure in 1999 to 10.5 per cent in 2006.

While the level of generic prescribing is increasing, in line with government policy, the level of generic dispensing is considerably lower. In 2006 generics accounted for 60 per cent of the total number of prescriptions dispensed by chemists in England, compared with fewer than one in six as recently as 1982.

According to Adrian Towse, director of OHE, this is because although the NHS is moving towards more generics prescriptions, some drugs are not off patent yet, and therefore cannot be prescribed as a brand.

According to the OHE, in 2006, a generic prescription dispensed in England cost an average of GBP4.76, while a branded prescription cost am average of GBP19.35.

The NHS drugs bill represented 10.5 per cent of total NHS spending in 2006, down from a peak of 12.5 per cent in 1999.

"The NHS drugs spend is dynamic ñ there are more new products coming on the market which will be expensive, but then there are also old drugs coming off patent," said Towse.

Hidden killer

The OHE Compendium of Health Statistics also shows that the UK has one of the highest mortality rates in Europe for respiratory diseases and awareness of these conditions needs to be raised. 

Respiratory diseases include asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructic pulmonary disease (COPD).

According to Emma Hawe, author of the compendium and head of statistics at the OHE, only 1 in 10 people surveyed by the British Lung Foundation had heard of COPD, and only half of those with one or more symptoms consulting their GP.

"Earlier diagnosis means the rate of progression can be slowed," said Hawe. 

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimates that the direct cost of COPD to the NHS is estimated to be more than GBP491m per year.

Cancer

OHE statistics also show that cancer is continuing to become more prevalent, but with great improvements in survival rates.

For example, in England and Wales there has been a significant improvement in the five year age-standardised relative survival rate in people with breast cancer.

This rose from 68 per cent for those diagnosed in 1991-1993 to 80 per cent for 2001 ñ 2003.

6th February 2008

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