Osteoporosis: Royal Osteoporosis Society discusses disease
Union leaders and business bosses are backing our campaign to tackle osteoporosis.
Poor access to specialist bone clinics for over-50s is dragging down the economy by keeping employees out of the workforce, trade union leaders say.
And business chiefs point out even though “labour market resilience is central to the health and wealth of the nation”, sickness-related absence remains “stubbornly high”.
Ill health is the biggest cause of economic inactivity in the over-50s age group, with musculoskeletal conditions like osteoporosis playing a major part.
An incredible 2.62million sick days are taken every year by UK workers due to fractures caused by osteoporosis.
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The Confederation of British Industry, Trades Union Congress and senior politicians have all joined the Sunday Express’s battle for better fracture services in every part of the country.
There is huge concern that long-term sickness is stopping those yet to reach retirement age playing a full role in the workforce – with serious consequences for their livelihoods and the economy.
The most recent labour figures reveal more than a quarter of those aged 50 to 64 are not in work, but not claiming unemployment benefits either. It is feared ill health is stopping many putting their skills and talents to work.
It also affects workers who have to take leave to care for older parents. On average, a hip fracture patient will need more than 200 hours of family care to recover.
Jordan Cummins of the CBI backed our Better Bones Campaign’s call for everyone over 50 to have access to a quality fractures liaison service.
He said: “Economic inactivity due to long-term sickness remains stubbornly high. Labour market resilience is central to the health and wealth of the nation and so the ambitions of the Better Bones Campaign are important for ensuring all workers, but especially the over-50s, are supported to remain in the workforce.”
Strong support also came from Shelly Asquith of the TUC, who said the organisation “very much” supported our campaign with the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS).
She said: “We very much support your efforts to get people the support and medical interventions they need and the way this campaign exposes gaps in our health service and its effect on workers.
“It’s great to see the attention this is getting and hope it continues to generate the interest and action it deserves.”
Research suggests nearly one in five people with osteoporosis have had their work-life disrupted, with as many as 600,000 older workers at risk of becoming unemployable.
Former Cabinet Minister Damian Green said: “At a time when we are desperately short of workers we need the over-50s to be able to work for their own sake and for the sake of the economy.
“Cutting down on the number of older workers who are prevented because of fractures is an urgent issue.”
A key goal of our campaign is ending the postcode lottery when it comes to fracture care – a concern shared by Mr Green.
He said: “It would be a significant improvement to the quality of life generally if we could all have the high-quality care that is available in some parts of the country.”
His call for action was echoed on the opposite side of the political spectrum by Sharon Graham, general secretary of union Unite.
She said: “It is disgusting that half of women over 50 are suffering from preventable fractures while the Government sits on its hands. We back the demand of the Better Bones Campaign that everyone should have access to a fracture liaison service that’s
universal and of high quality.
“People wanting to work are prevented from doing so because of this postcode lottery.”
We are calling for the bone clinics to be made available to all over-50s – which would come at a cost of £30million a year.
Meanwhile, the ROS praised the Welsh Government’s commitment to provide fracture liaison services to every part of Wales by next September.
This will ensure people who suffer a first fracture receive a proper diagnosis and medicine to treat osteoporosis.
Andrew RT Davies, who leads the Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament, said action to help older people stay in work would be good for the individuals concerned and for the economy.
“It doesn’t make a difference whether you live in Liverpool or Llandudno – osteoporosis is osteoporosis,” he said.
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More than 200 Parliamentarians and nearly 800 medics back the campaign. Among them is Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East.
She said: “Having long campaigned for better access to treatment for those experiencing menopause, one of the issues that come up time and time again is the increased risk that women face of developing osteoporosis – particularly women who experience early menopause.
“Oestrogen is essential for healthy bones, and as levels fall, many will experience a rapid reduction in bone density.
“While we know HRT can considerably reduce the risk of osteoporosis, we also know it is not suitable for everyone.
“We need to ensure there are sufficient services right across the country, to support those at risk. Fracture Liaison Services reduce the chance of re-fracture by 40 percent, yet, just like with HRT, a postcode lottery means many are missing out on this vital service.”
Craig Jones, CEO of the ROS, said: “It’s a mistake to think osteoporosis is just about hip fractures among people over 70. Tens of thousands of employees in their 50s and 60s are being forced out of the workforce early due to undiagnosed spinal fractures.
“With an early diagnosis, these people can remain in paid work until they choose to retire, without having to suffer hardship or sacrifice their careers early.
“Excellent therapies exist, so if the Treasury wants to keep older people in work, it must invest the modest sums needed to make Fracture Liaison Services universal.”
Davina’s pioneering HRT campaign puts bones in the spotlight
TV presenter and campaigner Davina McCall has spoken out about the risk of osteoporosis, writes Jaymi McCann.
The former Big Brother host and Masked Singer judge has already opened up about her own experiences with menopause and hormone replacement therapy.
HRT not only relieves most women of menopause symptoms, it can also prevent the thinning of bones, which can lead to osteoporosis.
Davina said she aimed to highlight the importance of bone health in her Channel 4’s taboo-smashing documentary Sex, Myths and Menopause.
She said: “On our documentary we did a really brilliant thing, using chocolate to show what osteoporosis is like. So people that have osteoporosis, your bones look a bit like an Aero, and people that don’t have osteoporosis your bones look a bit like the inside of a Wispa.
“The Aero means that they’re just more likely to break – or be vulnerable to fractures.”
She discussed the issue of osteoporosis on the Dr Louise Newson Podcast, which looks at issues around the menopause.
Dr Newson, who runs clinics specialising in menopause care, added: “Absolutely. And it is a real hidden disease. I’ve seen so many women and men with osteoporosis with really bad curvature of their spine, and pain because of the fractures. They can’t eat properly and they get loads of chest infections.”
“I had to crawl along the floor”
Self-employed mortgage adviser Daryl Phillips was left unable to work for four months because of severe osteoporosis that nearly “ruined” her, writes Tony Whitfield.
Even after getting the right treatment Ms Phillips, 58, now has to pace herself and is no longer as “super-efficient” as she once was.
Back in September 2021 Ms Phillips never imagined the back and hip pain that laid her low was caused by three fractures to her spine and one to her pelvis.
The mother-of-two and sole breadwinner suddenly found herself dependent on others for her everyday needs.
It was only after she used her mother’s inheritance to go private, because of long NHS waiting lists, that the debilitating condition was diagnosed in just five minutes after a Dexa scan.
She said: “I’d never suffered from any back pain before and I thought I’d slipped a disc because I literally could not get out of bed. I had to slide onto the floor and crawl. Within a week it got much worse. I couldn’t stand up.”
Unable to even go to her office at the bottom of the garden or take on new clients, her business was severely damaged.
She said: “It really did knock my confidence – I knew what financial effect it would have. It nearly ruined me.
“You can’t tell your clients to wait if they are in a situation where they are moving or coming off a fixed rate.”
Now she says she receives regular injections of Prolia (Denosumab) and takes high doses of vitamin D and strong painkillers for the continuous nerve pain in her spine, arm and legs.
She said: “I used to be a Trojan and super efficient at everything. Now I have to pace myself.”
Her health authority West Essex does not have a Fracture Liaison Service.
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