Better diagnosis and management of iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) could significantly reduce emergency admissions and save the NHS some much needed cash, not to mention the potential benefit to patient health, suggest findings of a new report.

As many as 80,000 hospital admissions in England every year are down to symptoms of the condition, such as raised heart rate, shortness of breath and chronic fatigue, and because it is not being efficiently identified in the community IDA is weighing heavily on the NHS purse, its treatment costing around £55 million a year.

Findings of the Ferronomics report, an analysis of hospital data and other literature fully sponsored by Vifor Pharma and unveiled at the Commissioning Show in London, show that the annual number of IDA hospital admissions classed as emergencies has leapt 10% to 15,420 in just two years, despite these cases being largely preventable.

Variation across CCGs

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a postcode lottery of care was also identified with "large variations" among Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the number of emergency admissions (up to five-fold), likelihood of patients being readmitted to hospital after treatment, and length of hospital stay. 

But this is particularly pertinent given that ensuring the worst performing CCGs hit average levels "could save the NHS over £8 million and release over 8,000 hospital bed days each year," the authors note, highlighting the significant potential for improvement.

"The management of IDA is often suboptimal with many patients being incompletely investigated, if at all," the report notes.

Burden 'greater than anticipated'

"The burden of anaemia on patients and the NHS is far greater than we anticipated," said Professor Ceri Phillips, from the Swansea Centre for Health Economics, and stressed that "steps to reduce emergency admissions are pivotal in improving both the quality and efficiency of IDA services".

Policymakers must ensure that there is an appropriate framework across the NHS to provide appropriate care for patients, as well review the current lack of specific indications and targets relating to the quality of care given in primary and specialist settings, the report recommends.