NHS 'frequent fliers' who yo-yo in and out of hospitals with chronic conditions are more prevalent in Birmingham than anywhere else in the country, new research claims.
About 9,800 'high impact users' - many of whom suffer conditions such as lung dis-ease, heart disease and diabetes - visited hospitals in the South Birmingham Primary Care Trust area more than once over the course of 2003/04, a new report claims.
The PCT also topped the costs league as it spent £20.75 million on repeat emergency treatment, the report by Dr Foster Intelligence said.
The report, entitled Keep-ing People Out Of Hospital, also claims valuable time and money could be saved if this group of patients was better cared for in the community.
It claims that chronic long-term conditions already affect more than 15 million people in England and account for a substantial proportion of emergency hospital admissions.
These patients account for a bout half of all GP consultations and 75 per cent of time spent in a hospital bed.
But the report pointed out that many of the emergency admissions caused by chronic conditions could be avoided if people were given the support to manage their condition outside of hospital.
This would involve providing the right combination of health and social care.
The report also revealed wide geographical variations in emergency admissions by high-impact users.
One primary care trust in South-east England reported fewer than 1,000 such admissions in a year, while at South Birmingham Primary Care Trust, there were nearly 10,000.
A spokesman for the trust said: "We are one of the largest PCTs in the country, serving 380,000 people in South Birmingham.
"The figures analysed by Dr Foster reflect the total cost of hospital readmission, rather than proportional cost per head of population.
"The management of people with long term conditions is central to the current strategies and local delivery plan of our PCT.
"We have a comprehensive range of measures in place to provide specialist support for patients within the community to reduce the risk of readmission to hospital."
Dr Foster Intelligence, an independent organisation supplying information to improve decision-making in health and social care, has launched an information service for GPs and primary care trusts called High-impact User Manager, which identifies the people most at risk of repeat emergency admissions to hospital.
Extra services can then be directed at these patients to prevent the need for repeated spells in hospital.
Hilary Rowell, report author and senior researcher at Dr Foster Intelligence, said: "Being admitted to casualty can be a very frightening experience for many.
"But our research shows that if primary care professionals could get to patients early enough and provide them with the right kind of care and information they need at home, many emergency admissions could be avoided."