Poor bowel health and chronic constipation, which are debilitating for hundreds and thousands of people in the UK, cost the NHS a preventable £71 million in unplanned hospital admissions for constipation last year, according to a new report.

The report by independent multidisciplinary organisation The Bowel Interest Group shows that this cost is likely to be much higher when GP visits, home visits and over the counter laxatives are taken into account. Specifically, the report shows that:

  • In 2017/18, 71,430 people with constipation were admitted to hospital in England. This is equivalent to 196 per day.
  • Close to three quarters of these were unplanned emergency admissions, equivalent to 144 per day.
  • £91 million was spent on prescription laxatives in 2017/18.
  • The cost of treating constipation in 2017/18 is equivalent to funding 7043 newly-qualified nurses for a year.
  • On average, 6.3 people visit a GP about constipation each week.

One in five people are embarrassed to talk about constipation

The Cost of Constipation report also highlights the embarrassment and distress caused by the condition, revealing that one in five people are embarrassed to talk about constipation with their GP, and some people find themselves unable to leave the house for social activities.

In addition to the physical problems constipation can cause such as haemorrhoids, chronic pain and urinary tract infections, the report highlights the high incidence of anxiety disorders and depression in people with constipation.

Dr Benjamin Disney, Consultant Gastroenterologist, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, said: “Many people see constipation as a simple, straightforward, easily treated condition that does not greatly affect people. However, from the Cost of Constipation report and my clinical experience, this is often not the case, with the condition being under-reported and often poorly managed, leading to a significant cost to the NHS and having a negative impact on patients’ overall health and quality of life. The Bowel Interest Group aims to tackle and raise awareness of the important issue of constipation.”