ROS welcomes ‘role model’ strategy in Wales to end the postcode lottery

Media releases

24 Feb 2023

The ROS has today hailed the strategy announced by the Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS, as a role-model of leadership for the rest of the UK.

The Health Minister has tabled a written ministerial statement committing to 100% population coverage of Fracture Liaison Services (FLS) across all health boards, by September 2024. This bold plan will end the postcode lottery which is currently leaving 7,500 people across Wales at risk of preventable fractures (broken bones), many of which will cause life-altering disability.

Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken and break more easily. The condition affects half of women over 50 in Wales, as well as a fifth of men. It is one of the most urgent threats to people living well in later life. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can lead to life-long disability, but with a timely diagnosis and the right care people can prevent fractures and live well.

Fracture Liaison Services (FLS) are the world standard model for fracture prevention. They allow people who have suffered their first fracture to be identified, diagnosed and treated, in a timely way, with anti-osteoporosis medications which keep bones strong. Without these therapies, people are left at high risk of further fractures – which are often more serious.

Strikingly, an Inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Osteoporosis and Bone Health  found that only 66% of the population of over 50s across Wales have access to an FLS. In comparison, 100% of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland are covered. This is due to only four Health Boards in Wales providing an FLS.

The inequalities on FLS in Wales is leading to systemic failings to prevent avoidable fractures. New data shows vividly the missed opportunities, with 134,349 people aged over 50 living in Wales with undiagnosed spinal fractures. Severe and painful in themselves, these injuries are red flags for a future hip fracture – a heart attack level event. Care for people with hip fractures requires 73,000 acute hospital bed days every year in Wales.

Once delivered, the Welsh Government's commitment to achieving 100% coverage of FLS will be a game-changer for people and the NHS. Over a five-year period, ROS projections show a total of 1,849 hip fractures will be prevented in Wales, saving £36.3m and releasing 50,000 acute bed days in Welsh hospitals.

ROS has been working closely with the Welsh Government over the last two years to shape the plan of action, including through facilitating a conference in Cardiff attended by the Health Minister on World Osteoporosis Day.

Craig Jones, Chief Executive of the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) said:

“We’ve been calling for a strong, top-down mandate that everyone - no matter where they live - deserves equal access to quality fracture care. The leadership shown by the Welsh Government will save lives and release enormous pressure on the NHS.  

"For too long, we’ve spent money in the wrong place - managing the costs of failure rather than preventing harm. We’re calling on health leaders across the UK to watch Wales carefully as it moves towards becoming best in class for osteoporosis care.”   

Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government, Eluned Morgan MS said:

“Everyone across Wales should be able to receive quality fracture care. We are committed to the Fracture Liaison Services covering all health boards.

“Osteoporosis can have a debilitating effect on health and wellbeing and these services will provide long-term benefits to those suffering with this condition; help to lower the risk of fractures and support people to live well.”

Find out more about the APPG Inquiry.

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