Incidence and surveillance of Lyme disease in the UK

Estimates of the health and social costs of Lyme disease

The true incidence of Lyme disease in the UK is unknown, but appears to be increasing. The total number of laboratory confirmed cases for England and Wales was 1,579 in 2017. The estimated number of cases per year is thought to be at least 3,000, though may be very much higher. European research has shown that a significant number of patients who are diagnosed with neurological Lyme disease, particularly if diagnosed at a late stage, develop long term health problems. The subsequent health and social care costs for these patients may be considerable.

There are no UK wide data on the financial implications of Lyme disease. However, in 2003 the total annual cost for Scotland, was estimated to be significant at £331,000 (range £47,000 – £615,000).

In 2017, an estimate of the annual societal costs of Lyme disease in the Netherlands was calculated at 20 million euros for an annual incidence of 25,000 cases of Lyme disease.

Assuming similar health and social care costs, an annual incidence of around 4,000 to 5,000 cases could result in a societal cost of between £3 million - £3.5 million per year.

Early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease provides the best chance of cure. There are possible financial benefits that NHS managers and commissioners should consider by raising awareness in public and primary care.

This toolkit was developed by the RCGP Lyme disease Spotlight Project team.

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