The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are life-long conditions and are common causes of gastrointestinal morbidity in the Western world. The median age at diagnosis is 29.5 years.1
Prevalence in the UK is estimated to be approximately 400 patients per 100,000 population. For a general practice of about 10,000 patients, this would equate to approximately 40 individuals with these life-long complex conditions. IBD is not curable, with both diseases following an unpredictable and relapsing course throughout life. Twenty-five per cent of ulcerative colitis patients will require a colectomy and approximately 80 per cent of Crohn's disease patients will also require surgery over their lifetime.2
The past few years have seen many positive changes in the management, treatment and care of patients with IBD. The development of European and national standards and guidelines in this field has helped to shape these changes.1-4 The need to move away from a purely medical model of care to a bio-psychosocial model for these complex, life- long and debilitating diseases is now becoming more widely accepted and recognised.5
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