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Patients with long-term conditions at risk from depression

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People with long-term conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are at increased risk of developing depression, which can, in turn, lead to complications and early death.

The Richmond Group, a coalition of charities, produced the report, Vital signs: Taking the temperature of health and social care for services for people living with long term conditions, which examined the psychological impact of living with one or more long-term conditions on more than 15 million people in England. It found that 60% of stroke patients, 61% of dementia patients, and 37% of patients with breast or colorectal cancer experience depression. It also found that people with chronic heart disease were eight times more likely to die within 30 months of diagnosis if they were depressed, and diabetes patients were 36–38% more likely to die within two years if they were affected by depression.

Poor care for those with pre-existing conditions is also highlighted as a major problem, although the report acknowledges areas of excellent care. The report found that 80% of patients with asthma are not receiving care that meets basic clinical needs, despite 66% of asthma deaths being preventable if the patient had better access to routine care. Similarly, 80% of diabetes-related amputations could have been prevented by more rigorous clinical standards, the report said.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: 'Too often, we are failing to provide the right level of care and support needed by people with long-term conditions and as a direct result of inadequate care their health is being put at greater risk with devastating consequences. For example, we are seeing people with diabetes lose limbs when an amputation could have been prevented, and people with asthma are dying unnecessarily. And it's not just a case of immense, unnecessary human cost; sub-standard care is also putting huge strain on the NHS budget.'

The report discovered that services were failing to prevent at-risk patients from developing long-term conditions. For example, the report suggests that 30% of Alzheimer's cases, 40% of cancer cases, and 75% of cardiovascular disease cases are preventable.

The report states that, with half of all general practice appointments and 70% of the NHS budget being spent on treating long-term conditions, prevention must be made a political and medical priority.

Tom Wright, chief executive of Age UK and chair of The Richmond Group, said: 'We have known for some time what needs to happen to support people with long-term conditions to survive and thrive, so the challenge is putting that knowledge into practice for everyone, right across the NHS and within social care. With long-term conditions affecting a massive one in six of us today, now is the time for action. If we can do this well we will not only save and improve lives, we will help the taxpayer too. That's why we are calling on the next government and healthcare leaders to commit to our vision for the next five years, so that the awful stories in this report become a thing of the past.'

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