Ticking timebomb of osteoporosis blighted my mothers final few years

Lord Black of Brentwood is joining our call for all over-50s to be given access to a bone specialist.

The Sunday Express has teamed up with The Royal Osteoporosis Society to campaign for £30million annual funding to stop the standard of treatment being a “postcode lottery”.

In an exclusive interview, Lord Black said that because the condition often remains under the radar, it has become a “ticking timebomb” for the NHS.

And having seen first hand how osteoporosis diminished the quality of his mother’s life, he said: “It does not have to be this way.”

Lord Black, co-chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Group on Osteoporosis and former director of communications for the Conservative party, says the cash outlay for risk assessment, bone scans and drugs for over-50s who suffer a fracture would save the NHS even more.

By the time his mother Monica, a mother of four and former bookkeeper, was diagnosed with the bone condition it was already at an advanced stage.

Had a GP “joined the dots” sooner, earlier intervention could have saved her from the pain she endured for a decade.

READ MORE: Support soars for Express campaign to wipe out ‘silent killer’ osteoporosis[LATEST]

Lord Black said: “She died in 2009 aged 79 and it blighted the last years of her life. She suffered very badly from osteoporosis.

“She was diagnosed in the 90s after a wrist fracture. But her condition was picked up so late that by the time she knew about it, it had progressed.

“She was in her 60s and, as with so many people who suffer, she was only diagnosed after a fall.”

But Lord Black said the warning signs would have been picked up had she had access to a Fracture Liaison Service, which identifies “fragility fractures” with the aim of reducing the risk of further, more devastating, injuries.

The service, currently only available in some areas, involves a team of specialists dedicated to secondary fracture prevention using risk assessment tools such as Dexa bone scans and drugs.

Giving all over-50s access to these clinics would save 8,000 lives and £665million over five years, according to the ROS.

Lord Black, chairman of Tele-graph Media Group, added: “My mother had already lost height and had a lot of osteoporosis in the family history. In fact, my grandmother was crippled with it. If the GP had joined the dots she would have been sent for a bone scan and put on drugs much earlier, which could have prevented suffering.

“She cracked a bone in her shoulder just from an awkward movement in the shower – that’s how brittle her bones were. As a result she was in a lot of pain for the last six months of her life.

“She also had to give up driving and like so many older people this meant a loss of independence. It was a real blow. She depended on the car for getting out.”

He added: “She had been very inspired by Queen Camilla who raised the profile of osteoporosis by talking about her own mother.

“This had encouraged other people to talk about it. We need to make sure people get early diagnosis and treatment.

“It saves taxpayers’ money and improves the quality of life for those at an important juncture.”

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Lord Black said it was the help his mother received from the ROS that had made him determined to support their efforts.

He said: “My mother had talked to their helpline service. It was first class and she got some amazing help about managing her symptoms. I was hugely impressed.”

Lord Black said he understood that demand for a share of health budgets would always be at a premium, with different priorities given to different conditions.

But he said it was “blindingly obvious” that investing in specialist clinics would “pay for itself very quickly”. He continued: “One of the reasons it is so fantastic that the Sunday Express can cover this is because it is still quite an unknown condition.

“It is like a ticking timebomb. As the population gets older, more will suffer from osteoporosis and unless people and their GPs know about the warning signs, the pressure on the NHS will grow worse.”

‘No time to delay on vital bone services’

The Government must not wait until next year to decide whether to offer adults vital bone health screening.

Royal Osteoporosis Society chief Craig Jones has warned any delay could cost lives.

It comes as Department of Health officials say they are considering more access to Fracture Liaison Services.

However, the results of a current consultation will not be published until January and even then, it may not include a mandate or extra funding for the specialist services.

Craig Jones, CEO of the ROS, said: “This is not good enough.

“The Sunday Express has set out the powerful moral and financial case for these clinics.

“The Government is unclear about whether it agrees with this evidence, but between now and January we will see 800 premature deaths from hip fractures, which we need to get on the road to preventing.”

Mr Jones said regional health authorities did have some independence in where to direct resources, but “ultimately it is the Government which calls the shots on what trusts need to prioritise”.

He said trusts had been instructed to hit 63 national health targets, but not one prioritised fracture prevention.

He added: “We are calling for every area to have a Fracture Liaison Service.

“As our population lives longer, broken bones caused by osteoporosis are a demographic time bomb. This is a big, strategic challenge for the whole of society. Bold leadership is needed.”

Fractures caused by osteoporosis are the fourth biggest cause of premature death and disability.

It is dubbed the “silent disease” as victims can be unaware until a bone breaks.

The Department of Health said: “We are calling for evidence to inform our Major Conditions Strategy, which will tackle conditions, including osteoporosis, in England.”


● Two-thirds of people who need osteoporosis drugs are not getting them

● Fracture Liaison Services reduce the risk of a second break by up to 40 percent

● More than four in 10 in England do not have access to an FLS

● Fractures caused by osteoporosis affect half of women over 50 and one in five men

● 70 percent of spinal fractures never come to medical attention, meaning 2.6 million people are suffering

● Spinal fractures are a main driver for people leaving the workforce – and also a red flag for a future hip fracture

● Total FLS coverage for people over 50 would prevent 74,000 fractures, including 31,000 hip fractures over five years

● The cost would see £3.26 returned for every £1 invested


● Give all over-50s access to dedicated bone specialists

● £30m extra investment into services for England, Wales and Scotland

● A Fracture Tsar appointed in each of Britain’s nations


Write to your MP or other elected representative and ask them to join the list of supporters for our Better Bones campaign to persuade the four governments across the UK to improve the population coverage and quality of FLS.

The Royal Osteoporosis Society has created a template letter that you can use to ask them to support the campaign.

You can find it on the ROS website. The ROS has also generated a map to revefal the FLS ‘postcode lottery’ across the UK.

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can write to both your MP and your devolved representative.

Politicians, whether in the UK Parliament, Welsh Senedd, Scottish Parliament or Northern Ireland Assembly, all have a significant influence over health policy and priorities.

The more Parliamentarians who support our campaign, the greater our chance of success in our goal of improving the population coverage and quality of FLS.

  • Visit theros.org.uk/write

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