'Bitter irony': Scots patients 'missing out' on Glasgow service used world-wide
A pioneering NHS service has been hailed for transforming the lives of thousands of older people world-wide but experts have cautioned that not all Scots are benefitting.
In 2001, clinicians Stephen Gallacher and Ian McLellan discovered that by scanning patients over 50 for osteoporosis when they presented with a broken bone they could help prevent further, more serious fractures.
Osteoporosis is described as one of the most serious threats to people living well in later life.
Half of women over 50 will suffer broken bones due to the disease and a fifth of men, with 300,000 Scots living with the condition.
Fractures are the fourth most consequential health condition, measured in years lost to disability and premature death.
Hip fractures in particular are one of the biggest killers, with a quarter of patients dying within 12 months of suffering the injury.
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A scan can help diagnose osteoporosis, with effective therapies available for people found to be at high fracture risk, to keep their bones strong.
Glasgow’s Fracture Liaison Service model was so successful that it was copied across the world.
Pam Duncan Glancy MSP, Chairwoman of the Cross-Party Group on Musculo-Skeletal Conditions (MSK) visited the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow to learn about the world-first service.
Ms Duncan Glancy said; “As someone who has had Juvenile Chronic Arthritis since I was a baby, I know the importance of bone health.
“Having clinics like these is essential to protecting the many people living with Osteoporosis or at risk of it, and I’m proud that Glasgow was the birthplace of this work.”
READ MORE: How to strengthen your bones
She was joined by Craig Jones, CEO of the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) which has warned that, while “on paper” everyone in Scotland has access to an FLS, unlike in England and Wales, the absence of a public audit on the performance of the services is masking “serious, risky gaps in quality and standards”.
Last year, the Scottish Government’s National Audit Programme Board concluded that an audit, costing £150,000 per year, was required to identify gaps in provision.
The ROS has said that if the audit had been delivered on the day the committee decided it was needed, it would be on course to prevent 172 hip fractures in Scotland by mid-2024 and 43 deaths.
Some 23 MSPs have signed a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for this to be progressed as soon as possible.
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Mr Jones said: “Scotland has one of the proudest records of any country for osteoporosis care, since it was the birthplace of the world standard for fracture prevention.
“It’s a bitter irony that in Scotland, of all places, and unlike in England and Wales, members of the public are being prevented from seeing how their Fracture Liaison Services are performing.
“Holding services accountable through published performance data will raise standards and prevent life-threatening fractures.
“We hope the Scottish Government will demonstrate its commitment to older people’s health by funding this audit its Audit Programme Board has cited as being necessary”.