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Why skin conditions are having a major effect on the NHS

It’s imperative to be aware of skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and skin cancer. Depending on the condition, they can have a severe impact on quality of life and even overall life expectancy.

An overflow of patients, a lack of dermatologists

While treatments are often simple and very successful, it can be hard to access expert advice and care.

There are statistics that also show why we should be concerned about our skin health. A report by the health think-tank The Kings Fund estimated that each year 54% of us are affected by skin disease: and 13 million people will see their GP and six in every 100 are referred for specialist advice.

How GPs are managing skin appointment numbers

Skin conditions are having a major effect on the NHS. Every year 80% of skin appointments with GPs are for the 10 most common skin conditions, and GPs do a good job of managing these. But even so the number of referrals to specialists, particularly for diagnosis, is rising. Over the five years from 2007/8, there was a 169% increase in GP referrals for dermatology – and a particularly increasing demand from patients with skin cancer.

“Embarrassing Bodies effect” set to increase GP strain

Compared to other cancers more people survive with skin cancer, the rates are rising as the population ages. Just under half of specialist work now relates to diagnosing and treat skin lesions – and there’s a suggestion that this may be an underestimate. The ageing population is expected to put further pressure on the specialty, as some common conditions, particularly skin cancer, occur much more frequently in the elderly, and are often more difficult to treat in the presence of other illnesses that are linked with age.

It is also likely that demand for dermatology services will increase in line with people’s rising expectations about skin, hair, and nail appearance – what we call “the Embarrassing Bodies effect” – and rightly so too. We need people to know more about the skin health, and these articles will help you find out more about your skin health, and what you can do to protect it throughout life. 

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