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Research Questions

  1. What is the burden of childhood RSV in the UK, specifically RSV in children aged up to five?
  2. Specifically, what is the burden of RSV in the UK on the National Health Service (primary and secondary healthcare), patients' and their parents'/carers' health and well-being, and on the wider UK economy?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that affects large numbers, mainly of children younger than five. The burden of RSV includes not only ill health for the children with the virus, which in severe cases results in hospitalisation, intensive care and even death; but also the emotional and practical burden on the affected families and carers; and the impact that has on productivity in the economy; alongside the costs of providing healthcare.

We reviewed recent literature and published data relevant to the UK and used this information to model the costs to the healthcare system and to the wider UK economy in terms of productivity losses of parents/carers. We found healthcare costs and productivity losses in the UK resulting from RSV in children younger than five total approximately £80 million annually. These costs are the consequence, in part, of an estimated 467,000 GP visits per year in the UK for children aged under five with RSV and 34,000 hospitalisations.

Our report also presents additional material, identified in the literature review, on the health impacts on affected children and the nature of the burden on parents and families of caring for a young child with RSV. The consequences of RSV are short-term for the majority of cases, but for some there are long term sequelae including poorer respiratory health in later life. RSV is also responsible for the deaths each year in the UK of an estimated 33 children under five.

Key Findings

  • Annual healthcare costs and productivity losses in the UK of children under 5 years having RSV total approximately £80 million. This equates to a mean cost of £97 for the NHS per child under 5 with RSV.
  • Just over £14 million of the £80 million is due to productivity losses, £1.5 million due to out-of-pocket expenses incurred by parents/carers and the remaining nearly £65 million due to healthcare costs.
  • The estimated costs are, in part, due to an estimated annual 467,230 GP visits and 33,937 hospitalisations for UK children under 5 with RSV.
  • Estimates suggest that each year in the UK 33 children under 5 die from RSV.
  • While most cases of RSV result in short-term impacts, some children may face long-term respiratory issues later in their life.
  • We estimate that children aged up to 1 years incur 49% of the total annual cost of RSV in children under five, despite only making up 10% of the total population of under 5's.
  • Children born prematurely account for 19% of the total cost burden of RSV in under 5's.

Research conducted by

This research was commissioned and fully funded by a sponsorship agreement with Sanofi and conducted by by researchers from RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge.

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