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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK
Sleep disorders costing millions
Sleep apnoea often goes undiagnosed
Untreated heavy snoring and sleep disorders cost the NHS millions of pounds a year, a leading specialist has said.

Dr Thomas MacKay said people with the disorder sleep apnoea went on to develop serious - and expensive - health problems if their condition went untreated.

The government must act on sleep apnoea and it must act quickly
Dr Melissa Hack
If more patients were properly diagnosed and treated it would have a huge economic impact on the NHS.

Obstructive sleep apnoea causes people to stop breathing for up to 45 seconds each minute throughout the night.

This disturbs their sleep, which leads to tiredness during the day - raising the risk of heart failure.

In addition, the DVLA estimates that 20% of all fatal road accidents are caused by someone falling asleep at the wheel.

Many cases

Dr MacKay said 180,000 people in the UK suffer from sleep apnoea.

However, many are unaware they have the condition, and only one in five get the appropriate treatment.

Dr MacKay said: "Widespread availability of resources to diagnose and treat sleep apnoea patients are urgently needed to reduce the crippling health and economic burden of this condition.

"Prompt diagnosis and treatment of people with sleep apnoea is of paramount importance."

The British Thoracic Society is calling on the government to run a national education campaign to raise awareness of the problem.

It also wants extra resources to be made available to improve diagnosis and treatment of the problem.

BTS spokeswoman Dr Melissa Hack said: "The government must act on sleep apnoea and it must act quickly.

"If we can treat the condition earlier we can save the NHS millions of pounds in reducing hospital admissions and other costs."

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