Osteoporosis affects 3.5million people in the UK, including half of women and a fifth of men over 50. Broken hips, wrists and spinal vertebrae are common in people with the condition


Tens of thousands of patients are suffering life-changing fractures every year because GPs ‘routinely’ fail to identify those with weak bones, a parliamentary inquiry has found. 

Family doctors are well-placed to diagnose and treat osteoporosis but too many people only learn they have it after suffering a fall, the cross-party group of MPs and Peers warn. 

Their damning report recommends health bosses introduce a national screening programme for the condition, which affects 3.5million people in the UK, including half of women and a fifth of men over 50. 

Osteoporosis causes people’s bones to weaken and break more easily and is responsible for 500,000 broken bones nationwide every year, at a cost of over £4.5billion. 

Osteoporosis affects 3.5million people in the UK, including half of women and a fifth of men over 50. Broken hips, wrists and spinal vertebrae are common in people with the condition

Osteoporosis affects 3.5million people in the UK, including half of women and a fifth of men over 50. Broken hips, wrists and spinal vertebrae are common in people with the condition

But an ‘enormous gap’ in diagnosis and care means only 39 per cent of people with one of three major risk factors has received a bone health assessment and only 33 cent of patients at high risk of breaks are receiving treatment. 

The others are more likely to suffer a fracture if they fall, piling pressure on overstretched ambulances and A&E departments and taking up valuable hospital beds. 

Camilla, the Queen Consort, has previously told how she watched her mother die ‘slowly and in agony’ from the ‘devastating’ disease aged 72. 

Broken bones caused by osteoporosis are extremely painful and can lead to life-changing disability that robs people of their independence. 

A quarter of people die within a year of suffering a hip fracture, the most serious osteoporosis-related injury. 

There is no systematic national approach to screening for osteoporosis in the UK, with decisions instead made by individual clinicians on a case-by-case basis. 

The Inquiry, led by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Osteoporosis and Bone Health, says targeted screening for women over 70 would likely prevent 8,000 hip fractures annually. 

Their report adds that GPs should be well placed to identify people at high risk of breaking bones before they happen, as they hold information about the risk factors for poor bone health. 

This includes early menopause, a family history of osteoporosis, long-term use of certain drugs, reduced amounts of sex hormones, low body mass index and heavy drinking and smoking. 

What is osteoporosis? 

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.

It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture.

The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are wrist, hip and spinal bone fractures.

However, they can also occur in other bones, such as in the arm or pelvis.

Sometimes a cough or sneeze can cause a rib fracture or the partial collapse of one of the bones of the spine.

Osteoporosis isn’t usually painful until a fracture occurs, but spinal fractures are a common cause of long-term pain.

Figures suggest 54million people have the condition in the US, while 3million are thought to suffer in the UK.

But data from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Health Boards, and Trusts shows a ‘vacuum’ when it comes to oversight of standards of care. 

The APPG received Freedom of Information responses from 85 of the 127 health bodies it contacted. 

Some 74 per cent of these respondents were not aware what proportion of GP practices in their area had a process for systematically identifying patients at high risk of fracture. 

Ninety per cent were not aware if there was an identified clinician with a special interest in osteoporosis in any of their practices. 

And 97 per cent did not hold information about five year reviews of osteoporosis treatment, despite it having the second lowest rate of treatment adherence of any long-term condition. 

The Inquiry’s separate analysis of 545 responses to its call for evidence found a post code lottery of care is having a ‘stark impact’ on the public. 

Even patients who do receive a diagnosis report feeling ‘abandoned’, with little or no monitoring or follow-up from medics, as well as poor awareness of the condition. 

Only 48 per cent of people were confident they were on the right medication, while 11 per cent had to resort to private healthcare to get the tests they needed. 

Once identified, osteoporosis is treatable with drugs that have been shown to be effective in increasing bone strength and reducing the risk of fractures. 

Judith Cummins MP, chair of the APPG, said: ‘Primary care is the front door to the NHS. 

‘Practitioners have a wrap-around role in arranging tests to secure a timely diagnosis, getting patients onto an appropriate treatment pathway and following up to make sure patients are managing their treatment regime. 

‘But our findings show systemic failings across all three areas. 

‘The result is tens of thousands of preventable fractures, which damage lives and create enormous burdens for hospitals, ambulances and social care. 

‘When it comes to osteoporosis, the simple truth is that we’re spending money in the wrong place – managing the costs of failure rather than preventing harm.’ 

Craig Jones, chief executive of the Royal Osteoporosis Society, said: ‘For too long, fracture prevention services have been neglected, despite the prevalence of osteoporosis and the upward trend in fractures as the population ages. 

‘Action is now beyond the point of urgency. 

‘The postcode lottery for care and a lack of ownership for the condition is putting people at serious harm and leading to spiralling costs for the NHS.’ 

People with osteoporosis are encouraged to exercise regularly to maintain their bone health, improve balance and reduce their risk of fractures. 

Sunil Nedungayil, a GP practicing in the North West, said: ‘Systemic failings in primary care are leading to delayed diagnosis and eye-watering rates of preventable fractures. 

‘A national screening programme to pick up high fracture risk patients is a simple straightforward remedy. 

‘Once detected, we then need to make sure there are proper management systems within every primary care service to help people with their treatment.’

You May Also Like

Scientists say beetroot juice ‘significantly increases muscle force during exercise’

Forget protein shakes and pre-workout: Scientists say BEETROOT juice ‘significantly increases muscle…

Some addiction treatment centers turn big profits by scaling back care

Near the end of his scheduled three-month stay at a rehab center…

Brain tumour: Glioblastoma symptoms may include nausea

According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition triggers signs like worsening headaches,…

Adding milk to coffee could help fight inflammation – study

From vitamin-packed veg to protein-rich pulses, it’s no secret that a healthy…

Six ways to ward off dementia – '40% of dementia cases could be prevented'

There are currently 944,000 people with dementia in the UK, more than…

Women should get ANNUAL breast cancer scans, claims Government’s women’s health tsar

Women should get ANNUAL breast cancer scans, claims Government’s women’s health tsar…

The late actress Janet Blair died aged 85 from a common condition – symptoms

Born on April 23, 1921, Janet Blair first appeared in the LA…

Backlash over NHS’s 5-step recovery blueprint to avert another devastating winter crisis

A five-point plan that NHS bosses hope will boost capacity and keep…

Newly Discovered Disease VEXAS Syndrome Affects up to 15,500 Americans—Here are the Symptoms

A new disease called VEXAS syndrome may afflict as many as 15,500…

Lisa Marie Presley was ‘back on opioids and taking weight loss meds before Golden Globes’

Lisa Marie Presley was desperately trying to lose weight for the Elvis…

Hated sugar tax worked for girls… but NOT boys, Cambridge University scientists say

The sugary drinks tax may have prevented more than 5,000 cases of…

Medical journal investigating study that wrongly claimed Covid jabs have killed up to 280k in the US

The publisher of some of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals is…