Guy - who is Co-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Osteoporosis - introduced a debate in the Lords on 14th September calling for universal coverage of Fracture Liaison Services (FLS) in England to help tackle the "ticking time bomb" of osteoporosis.
He explained his interest in the issues: " Osteoporosis is an urgent public health crisis; half of women over 50 and a fifth of men will suffer fractures due to the condition. Osteoporosis weakens bones, so they break after simple everyday occurrences: a cough, a fall, even a hug from grandchildren can be enough to cause a debilitating fracture with often life-changing consequences. I saw this at close hand with my own mother, the last years of whose life were blighted by this cruel disease. It was diagnosed and treated too late, robbing her of her independence and, above all, quality of life because of multiple fractures."
He set out the economic costs of failure to act: "As many people die of fracture-related causes as of lung cancer or diabetes. Fractures are also the second-highest driver of bed occupancy in the NHS. Today, they cost the health and social care system £4.6 billion. By 2030, this will edge towards £6 billion as we all live longer. Furthermore, fractures account for 2.62 million sick days annually in the UK, and spinal fractures in particular are a significant cause of older workers exiting the workforce in their 50s and 60s —figures of which the Treasury should take careful note."
The key game-changer in tackling this crisis would be universal coverage in England of FLS - " the world standard for diagnosing osteoporosis early, straight after the first break, so that life-changing spine and hip fractures can be prevented."
Guy noted that: "The stark truth is that 31,000 hip fractures can be prevented over the next five years if we make FLS universal and high quality. We would stop treating the symptoms and prevent the damage in the first place. Today, we are spending money the wrong way around, managing the costs of failure rather than preventing harm in the first place. To coin a phrase, that is voodoo economics. Hip fractures are the most costly fragility fractures to treat: the average length of stay in hospital is three weeks, and a million acute hospital bed days are taken up by patients every year."
Prevention, he argued, is much better than cure: "That can all change. If we front-end just 1.5% of our current spend on fixing hip fractures into setting up an FLS in every area, we can prevent a tenth of hip fractures happening. That is 31,000 people’s lives changed for the better, around 8,000 of whom would otherwise have died shortly after injury. Ending the postcode lottery for FLS would cost just £27 million per year in additional funding but have a total benefit of £440 million over five years. FLS, which break even in just 18 to 24 months ... deliver return on investment of roughly £3.26 for every pound invested."
He concluded by "imploring" the Government to act: "As our population continues to live longer, broken bones caused by osteoporosis are a demographic time bomb. Without urgent action, a longer life will not be a better life. This is a big strategic challenge for the whole of our society. Bold, visionary leadership from the Government could change the terms of the game, improving the lives of tens of thousands, relieving pressure on our beloved NHS and saving money for the taxpayer. We have such a huge opportunity here to save and change lives. I implore the Government to take that opportunity."
The full text of the debate, including a Ministerial response from Lord Evans of Rainow, is here.