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MPs urge action on postcode lottery for Fracture Liaison Services

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26 Oct 2023

In Parliament yesterday Judith Cummins MP used an adjournment debate to highlight the critical need for improved osteoporosis care and support. The debate took place within the context of the ongoing Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) and Sunday Express Better Bones campaign for universal, quality Fracture Liaison Services (FLS).  

The campaign has enjoyed widespread support from 250 parliamentarians, 44 charities, seven royal medical colleges, business leaders, and trade unions. Their collective call on the government to end the postcode lottery – where only 57% of people in England have access to an FLS – was echoed by MPs from across the House. 

During the debate, several MPs raised critical points about osteoporosis care and prevention. Judith Cummins MP focused on the economic and healthcare burden of osteoporosis, calling for a central mandate that would result in universal FLS for individuals over the age of 50. She emphasised that FLS can prevent thousands of fractures and save significant bed days, reducing the financial strain on the NHS. 

Anna Firth MP highlighted the importance of FLS and prevention in tackling osteoporosis. She mentioned an FLS set to launch in Southend, which will identify, assess and treat anyone over the age of 50 who suffers a fragility fracture, potentially saving millions of pounds and thousands of bed spaces annually. 

Peter Dowd MP called for an increase in FLS coverage, as currently only half of NHS trusts offer these services. He stressed the importance of ensuring equitable access to FLS across the country. Jim Shannon MP raised concerns about the assessment of individuals with osteoporosis within the Department for Work and Pensions and the need for a better understanding of the condition. 

Wera Hobhouse MP echoed the need for improved coverage and suggested the establishment of a transformation fund to support prevention efforts. Eddie Hughes MP emphasised the importance of educating men about the impact of osteoporosis and the potential for lifestyle changes to reduce their risk. 

The debate underscored the critical role of FLS in identifying osteoporosis early, providing treatment, and reducing the risk of further fractures. Parliamentarians recognised that osteoporosis ranks as the fourth most consequential health condition in terms of disability and premature death. 

Responding for the government, Will Quince MP – Minister for Secondary Care - praised Judith Cummins for her ongoing advocacy in support of those with osteoporosis. The Minister acknowledged the growing challenge of this condition, particularly among the aging population in the UK. He recognised the impact of osteoporosis not only on the elderly but also working-age individuals, leading to 2.63 million sick days per year due to osteoporotic fractures.  

The Minister congratulated the Sunday Express and Better bones campaign for raising the profile of FLS. He stated that FLS has long been recognised as best practice for secondary fracture prevention. He acknowledged ROS research that has revealed that investing in universal FLS could yield substantial savings for the taxpayer, preventing nearly 5,700 fragility fractures annually. 

MPs from across the House made a compelling argument of the many benefits of government action to mandate universal, quality FLS. Without government action, preventable fractures will continue to burden the healthcare system and inflict suffering. The Better Bones campaign is clear, Ministers must act decisively to ensure equitable FLS access for all individuals over 50. 

A full recording of the debate is available here, a full transcript of the debate can be found here 

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