A new report from Bowel Interest Group (BIG) has revealed that the cost of emergency hospital admissions due to constipation continues to rise every year in England.

The 2020 edition of the Cost of Constipation report, the third edition published by BIG, has revealed that year-on-year the cost of avoidable emergency hospital admissions due to constipation is rising.

Compared to two years prior, only six out of 42 regions in England have seen a reduction in the cost or number of admissions for constipation; this comes at a time when the NHS is already dealing with a backlog of patients, with treatments for chronic conditions delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the 2020 report, in 2018/19, £168 million was spent by NHS England on treating constipation. This is equivalent to funding 7304 newly qualified nurses for a year.

The total cost to the NHS for unplanned constipation care is likely to be much higher when including GP visits, home visits, and over the counter laxatives.

Managing bowel health

Chronic constipation and poor bowel health affect millions of people; bowel conditions can be debilitating physically and mentally, and significantly impact quality of life.

According to a YouGov survey of 2,352 people, nearly one in five feel embarassed talking to their GP about constipation, and would try to solve it themselves before speaking to anyone—this could be contributing to the high number of constipation-related hospital admissions.

NHS Trusts in England have produced formal Bowel Management Pathways, which are beginning to offer empirical proof of their value. 

Dr Ben Disney, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Coventry and Warwickshire University Hospitals Trust, said ‘At a time when our NHS is under such pressure, failing to establish these pathways would seem poor practice. Effective bowel management is just one of the initiatives that help foster healthier populations that consume less healthcare.’

The full report is available to download here.

View our Guidelines summary of BIG’s Dealing with chronic constipation—information for GPs.