Headlines: March 2nd, 2016

Constipation affects millions of people in the UK and is being overlooked at significant cost to the NHS and individuals. The ‘Cost of Constipation’ a report from Coloplast, the continence and ostomy care specialist, estimates that the NHS spent £145 million on unplanned hospital admissions due to constipation during 2014/15 alone.

Despite the critical role that bowels play in our health, as many as one in ten people in the UK are needlessly suffering in silence with chronic constipation, despite it being a preventable and easily manageable illness. Research by Coloplast has revealed a widespread lack of understanding around the definition of constipation, combined with embarrassment around the subject matter and ignorance about how to treat it.

There are an estimated 2 million adults affected by chronic constipation, but our inability to manage the illness is preventing access to effective and timely treatment, incurring significant costs through A&E admissions. Coloplast’s report reveals that the total cost to hospitals for treating unplanned admissions due to constipation was £145 million in 2014/15 and that during the year, 66,287 people were admitted to hospital with constipation as the main condition. This is equivalent to 182 people every day

The misconception that constipation is not a serious health concern is compounding the cost, research reveals. Bowel problems affect an estimated 6.5 million people in the UK, and the cost of laxative prescriptions reached £101 million in 2014/15. However, Coloplast’s research suggests that many people could be suffering in silence because they see constipation as a minor issue and an embarrassment.

Greg Quinn, Public Affairs Manager at Coloplast says: “Constipation is a national problem that no one is talking about. Poor bowel health and chronic constipation are affecting millions of people, and as we speak many thousands in the UK are being prevented from living their lives fully as a result. Constipation is far from an unusual problem but the condition can often be dismissed, or even laughed off.

“We wanted to explore the true cost of constipation to the NHS and the current state of awareness of bowel health in the UK, to highlight that as a nation we can no longer underestimate or ignore this vital function. Addressing the topic of constipation and bowel health, however difficult, will help patients to claim greater control over their health and reduce the need for unplanned A&E admissions as a result.”

Dr Anton Emmanuel. Consultant in Neuro-Gastroenterology, University College London Hospital says: “Our bowel habits need the same attention and care as we would give our heart, blood pressure or lungs. We all need to have a better understanding of what constitutes a healthy bowel, and be comfortable and confident talking about any symptoms we have.

“Constipation currently affects one in seven adults in the UK, but at the moment we’re glossing over how severe it can become if left untreated. The good news is that it’s often preventable and manageable – provided people don’t ignore it and seek information and guidance early on. Let’s open up the conversation about constipation, so more people are aware of the condition, and understand that there is advice and treatment available. There is no need for anyone to suffer alone.”