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Fears over bone health raised

A surgeon-turned-Senedd member raised concerns about an “alarming” increase in musculoskeletal disorders.

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By Chris Haines
ICNN Senedd Reporter

A surgeon-turned-Senedd member raised concerns about an “alarming” increase in musculoskeletal disorders.

Altaf Hussain, a former consultant orthopaedic surgeon, warned that one in three adults aged 50 or over dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture.


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The Conservative MS said older adults have a five to eight times higher risk of dying within three months compared with those without a fracture.

“This increased risk of death remains for almost 10 years,” said Mr Hussain. “It is not just hip fractures that we have to worry about.

“There has been an alarming increase in a whole range of musculoskeletal disorders. They are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability.”

Dramatic rise

Leading a debate on joint and bone health on June 5, Mr Hussain pointed out that the number of over-65s in Wales is predicted to rise by about 45% over the next two decades.

The Tory shadow social care minister called for a radical rethink to halt a “dramatic rise in unnecessary deaths and avoidable disabilities”.

He warned: “We can’t seem to get a grip on waiting times despite the doubling of the health and care budget over the past quarter of a century.”

Mr Hussain told the chamber the median average wait for hip surgery was 452 days in Wales, with Swansea having the longest waiting times at an average of 668 days.

The South Wales West MS said 96,500 patients were waiting for trauma and orthopaedic surgery across Wales, with nearly half waiting longer than nine months.

Mr Hussain urged the Welsh Government to redouble efforts on falls prevention and called for a women’s health strategy to address the impact of menopause on bone health.

Setting out some simple steps people can take to improve their health, the surgeon stressed the importance of vitamin D, calcium-rich foods and muscle-strengthening exercises.

He added that research shows smoking and drinking too much alcohol can weaken bones.

He said: “If we can do these simple things, we can reduce our risk of joint pain and fractures.

“Simple interventions can help us to maintain a healthier later life, but also reduce the strain on our NHS and social services departments.”

Eluned Morgan, the health secretary, told the Senedd that almost a million people have a musculoskeletal condition – about a third of Wales’ population.

She said: “It's always intimidating to respond to Altaf Hussain – this incredible clinician – but this is his specialist area, so it's particularly intimidating this evening.”

She confirmed the Welsh Government is on track to meet a commitment to make a fracture liaison service available in all corners of Wales by September.

Baroness Morgan highlighted a dramatic 71% fall in outpatients waiting more than 52 weeks since April 2022, with two-year waits tumbling by 72%.

She said: “I have been breathing down their necks, all over the country, when it comes to orthopaedic surgery and getting those longest waiting lists down.”

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