How has the health care system responded to the growing number of people with multiple conditions?

With the number of people with multiple conditions rising, the NHS has begun to recognise the importance of delivering care across traditional disease specialties and health and social care boundaries. Guidelines and care-quality indicators for the assessment and management of people with multiple conditions have been developed, and the need for research into better models of care for people with multiple conditions has been highlighted.,, Researchers and practitioners in many countries agree that health systems need new models to care for those with multiple conditions.

The responsibility for managing their conditions falls primarily on the individuals themselves. Some need to take multiple medications at certain times, or regularly monitor clinical indicators like blood sugar. Unsurprisingly, juggling the tasks needed to manage multiple conditions can feel like an overwhelming burden for some people. The Health Foundation has shown in its own research that people who are less able to effectively manage their health conditions require more care from the NHS., In planning the long-term future of the NHS, national programmes targeting specific conditions (such as cancer, cardiovascular disease or mental health) are important to improve care for patients with those conditions. But they need to be supplemented with a strategy that focuses action on multiple conditions, informed by better information about the needs of this growing group of people.

In this briefing, we describe what NHS care looks like for patients with multiple conditions. We also show what proportion of NHS resources is used to provide care for these patients. We argue that designing high-quality care for patients with multiple conditions should be an essential part of any NHS strategy – be it for primary, secondary, community, emergency, or integrated care. We emphasise that multiple conditions are a concern for all patients, not just elderly ones, particularly in deprived areas, and that having an additional condition can increase the complexity of a patient’s health needs and their need for support and treatment from the NHS.

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