Hospital admissions for ‘Victorian diseases’ soar

Hospital admissions for vitamin D deficiency and rickets have risen by a third in just one year, figures show.

The NHS Digital data, analysed by the Press Association, shows that children under the age of nine were among those admitted to English hospitals for malnutrition and rickets.

Vitamin D is essential for bone health and preventing rickets, and is often called the sunshine vitamin.

The body can get its vitamin D from sunlight and diet, but the UK’s poor weather has prompted experts to say adults and children should take a supplement.

Some 284,901 hospital admissions in 2017/18 were for “Victorian diseases” such as gout, scurvy, vitamin D deficiency and rickets – a 24% rise on the year before.

The admissions included 101,136 with a main or secondary diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency – 34% more than the 75,708 in 2016/17.

There were an additional 474 admissions in 2017/18 where the main or secondary reason was rickets, up from 445 the year before.

Almost all these cases were young children, with 332 admissions for rickets in children aged nine and under, up from 324 the year before.

A further 80 admissions for rickets were among those aged 10 to 19, up from 67 the year before.

The NHS data for 2017/18 also shows huge numbers of people – both young and old – being admitted to hospital with malnutrition.

In 2017/18, there were 9,307 admissions where malnutrition was a main or secondary factor, up on the 8,417 the previous year – with 739 having malnutrition as the primary cause.

Among children aged nine and under, 166 admissions were for a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition (up from 143 the year before).

Among those aged 10 to 19, there were 237 admissions for malnutrition in 2017/18 and 238 in 2016/17.

Meanwhile, nine admissions were for children aged nine and under who needed treatment for scurvy, up from four the year before.

Among all age groups, scurvy was a primary or secondary cause of admission in 167 cases (up from 128 the year before).

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said it was important that parents ensured their children got enough vitamin D.

He said: “Being deficient in Vitamin D can restrict growth and increases a child’s risk of developing rickets or muscle weakness.

“As this latest analysis shows, hospital admissions due to rickets are increasing.

“This is concerning but there are several ways this can be addressed.

“In the short term, parents need to ensure their child has Vitamin D supplementation containing 400 units of the vitamin every day.

“These can be purchased in pharmacies and most supermarkets but check the dose in the product purchased.”

He said the Government must also seriously consider fortifying foods and milk with Vitamin D, as happens in several other countries.

“This simple, safe measure will ensure wider and better vitamin D coverage and protect the health of many more children without the reliance on supplementation,” he said.

Public Health England recommends children aged one to four receive a supplement containing 10 micrograms (400 IU) of the vitamin daily.

Adults should also consider taking a supplement in autumn and winter.

Professor Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said: “Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and most of us get enough from sunshine and a healthy balanced diet during summer and spring.

“During autumn and winter, those not consuming foods naturally containing or fortified with vitamin D should consider a 10 microgram supplement.

“Those who don’t expose their skin to the sun may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight and should take a supplement all year round.

“Ethnic minorities with darker skin may not get enough vitamin D during the summer and should consider a supplement throughout the year.”

The NHS Digital figures for 2017/18 also show there were 165,734 admissions where the patient had a primary or secondary diagnosis of gout – another Victorian era disease.

This is up from 135,958 the year before.

While admissions for whooping cough fell in 2017/18, there were 27 admissions for cholera (up from 24 the year before).

There were also 306 for mumps (up from 238) and 1,546 for scarlet fever (up 35% on the 1,146 the year before).

In 2017/18, there were 5,331 admissions for tuberculosis, down slightly on the year before (5,789).

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