GPs are set to see a much greater proportion of patients with serious illness if figures predicted in a new demographics study are correct.
Researchers said that the proportion of people living with a serious illness in England could increase to nearly 15% of the population in 10 years time, with the vast majority of patients being aged 50 and above.
Improvements in diagnosis in recent years coupled with better treatment options were said to explain the greater numbers of older people diagnosed with diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Furthermore, general improvement in life expectancy and longevity meant that despite downward trends in disease prevalance, an overall increase in the number of people aged over 50 will increase the proportion diagnosed with a serious illness in future.
The report from think tank The International Longevity Centre said: ‘Around 13.9% – an estimated 2.6 million people – aged 50+ are living with serious illness in England, with 3.1 million in the UK as a whole. If the current trend continues, the projected proportion of people living with serious illness could increase to 14.8% by 2025.
‘The total number of people aged 50+ with serious illness is likely to rise to 3.4 million in England and 4.0 million in the UK as a whole by 2025.
‘In an alternative model, if the trend continues of people being fitter for longer, the proportion of people aged 50+ with a serious illness could stabilise at 12.5% by 2021. In either scenario, our findings clearly indicate that the number of older people living with a serious illness will rise over the next 10 years.’
Although the report is thought to represent the first estimate for the overall prevalence of serious illness in England and the UK, researchers recommend that further research be conducted to include socio-demographic factors and more comprehensive data on illness prevalence.
NHS England has focused its five-year plan for the UK health service heavily around older people, including extending dementia support services and making more medical treatment available in care homes.