The cost of spinal cord injury

Impact of spinal cord injury on the UK economy

We already know that spinal cord injury has a devastating effect on the individual, but little was known about the cost from a societal perspective. Economic evaluation can help make the case for investing in actions to reduce these injuries, as well as better manage and support people living with SCI. It can help determine the incremental cost-effectiveness of actions compared to usual care.

To get answers for this important question, Spinal Research commissioned a study with London School of Economics and Political Sciences. The report compiles data from researchers, scientists and clinicians from London Spinal Cord Injury Centre, University College London, Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit and Spinal Research.

We wanted to look at both immediate and ongoing health, rehabilitation and long-term care directly attributable to spinal cord injury. The report also covers aids and adaptations, unpaid informal care and participation in employment. The model accounts for differences in injury severity, gender, age and life expectancy after injury.

The results have shown that the estimated average lifetime cost of health and social care for a person with a spinal cord injury in the UK is £1.12 million.

Overarching Report Finding

Lifetime costs for an expected 1,270 new cases of SCI per annum conservatively estimated as £1.43 billion (2016 prices). This equates to a mean £1.12 million (median £0.72 million) per SCI case. It ranges

 from £0.47 million (median £0.40 million) for an AIS grade D injury to £1.87 million (median £1.95 million) for tetraplegia AIS A-C grade injuries. 71% of lifetime costs potentially are paid by the public purse with remaining costs due to reduced employment and carer time.

Report Conclusion

Despite the magnitude of costs, this first analysis of the costs involved in spinal cord injury in the UK is likely to be conservative. Findings are particularly sensitive to the level and costs of long-term home and residential care. The analysis demonstrates how modelling can be used to highlight economic impacts of SCI rapidly to policymakers, illustrate how changes in future patterns of injury influence costs, and help inform future economic evaluations of actions to prevent and/or reduce the impact of SCIs.

The full research paper can be read via Spinal Cord.

The Cost of Spinal Cord Injury model can be downloaded here.