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Date: 25 July 2014

Time: 23:14

Demand for skin service grows

Story posted/last updated: 28 November 2012

The number of patients treated at QEHB for skin conditions ranging from acne to cancer has grown significantly in recent years.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) has now responded to the increased demands by expanding its dermatology service.

The service has expanded from four consultants four years ago to seven, with at least one, possibly two new consultants to be appointed shortly. The expansion is necessary to maintain waiting times for patients and reduce the need for external locum doctors to be used to support the service.

Consultant Dermatologist Dr Jerry Marsden said there had been a growing demand for the service, both for skin cancer and for general dermatology such as eczema, psoriasis and acne.

While the latter disorders are less serious, they can severely reduce the quality of life of those affected. Moreover, more serious skin disorders, such as blistering diseases and severe drug reactions, can be life-threatening.

UHB is in the unique position of having both dermatologists and burns experts in the same hospital, with unrivalled facilities for the care of ill patients with extensive skin disease.

Dr Marsden said: “The underlying reason for the increasing demand is that there is more disease than there used to be and we can do more to treat it. This is especially true of skin cancer, where a comprehensive service for all types and stages of skin cancer takes referrals from throughout the UK.

“The combination of sun exposure, white skin, and an ageing population are the main reasons for the large increase in skin cancer.”

He added: “Our service has dermatology at its core, but we can only do the high-quality work required by our very close working with plastic surgery, oncology, pathology, and our highly-skilled skin cancer specialist nurses.”

An avoidable cause of skin cancer is sunbeds. The risks are clear and so it is now illegal for under-18s to use sunbeds. A recent study in America found that sunbed users are 69 per cent more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, or BCC – the most common form of skin cancer – before the age of 40 than people who have never used the artificial tanning device.

Around 75,000 Britons develop BCC every year and the real numbers are almost certainly much higher.

Mr Marsden said that, in the West Midlands, it is estimated that at least 11,000 people will be diagnosed with a BCC in 2012, which is a much higher figure than 10 years ago.

Overall, UHB figures reveal a 16 per cent increase in dermatology outpatient attendances between 2008 and 2011, rising from 22,397 in 2008–09 to more than 26,000 in 2010–11.

A sign of the continuous increase in skin cancer and other conditions is that dermatologists are in high demand. However, UHB is successfully recruiting excellent consultants despite low numbers of available newly qualified dermatologists.

Dr Marsden said the appointment of new consultants would enable existing dermatology services to be extended, and free up existing staff to take on more skin cancer cases.

Expansion of the service would also enable the trust to carry out more community clinics, from which it also receives referrals.

UHB is the biggest provider of dermatology services in the region and has considerably increased its catchment area, which now stretches from Hereford to Shrewsbury and from Mid and North Wales to Derby.

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