New research shows the health care use of individuals with multiple conditions also depends on health of those they live with

3 March 2021

Health Foundation research shows that the health and health care needs of people living in the same household are interconnected. The findings highlight the potential for services to make better use of household information when planning and providing care

In the UK, around 25% of people have two or more long-term health conditions and their care needs account for over half of the country’s health care costs. Responsibility for managing the everyday care of long-term conditions rests mainly on the individuals themselves or their informal carers, and around half of all informal carers are providing care for someone in the same household.

Until now, we haven’t known much about the household factors that affect the health and care needs of people with multiple long-term conditions. As one would expect, someone with multiple long-term conditions tends to use more health services than someone with fewer conditions. However, our findings show that this also depends on the health of other people living in their household. In houses where two or more people have multiple health conditions, we found that they individually had higher annual primary care costs, made more GP visits, and they were more likely to use community care.

The research also shows the scale of this issue in UK. We focused on the over 50s living in two-person households. Half of all people who had two or more long-term conditions were living with another person who had two or more long-term conditions, and this was even higher among people living in the most deprived areas of the country.

Based on this evidence, we think that there is huge potential for health and care service leads to make better use of household information when planning and providing care. Our work suggests that we may be able to better connect health and care services across household members. For example, providers may be able to schedule care that is delivered in people’s homes more efficiently if they have access to information about the health and health care needs of the whole household. We know that this happens sometimes, but we think that there’s scope to do it more systematically.

This work also re-affirms the need to identify and support informal carers. The research highlights that many carers may be managing their own complex needs alongside the complex needs of their co-residents and are therefore likely to need additional support.

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