Stephen Ryan: Worrying rise in diabetes cases is a call to action

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THE numbers of people living with diabetes, is going up and up. There are now 3.2m people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK – an increase of 59.8 per cent since 2005 with an additional 1.2m adults living with the condition compared with 10 years ago. This doesn’t even take into account the almost 600,000 people who, in 2013-14, were estimated to have Type 2 diabetes but were yet to be diagnosed.

The new figures, extracted from official NHS data, provide a stark warning for the need for effective care for people living with diabetes, as well as highlighting the importance of prevention.

With an estimated 291,775 people diagnosed with diabetes in Yorkshire, there is huge potential to save money and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals and services in the region, through providing better care to prevent people with diabetes from developing devastating and costly complications.

Of these, an estimated 262,599 patients have Type 2 diabetes – hence a definitive need for measures to be taken that could potentially lead to a delay or total prevention of the condition.

Through the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme that NHS England and Public Health England are developing with our support, and that includes a demonstrator site in Bradford, we have clear evidence that effective lifestyle interventions can help people to change their diet and physical activity (which includes weight loss as an outcome).

Government and the food industry also have an important role to play in helping to reduce the huge rise in the numbers of people who are obese and are therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. We want to see a robust approach to regulation of the food and drink industry that goes beyond the current voluntary Public Health Responsibility Deal to reduce the burden of obesity. We also think that manufacturers must look at the content of food to make products healthier. Information should be clearly visible on products – for example through front of pack food labelling – so people are able to make informed decisions.

It is also important to note that there are factors involved in the development of Type 2 diabetes that cannot be controlled, such as age, ethnicity and family history and that, at present, there is no way to prevent people from developing Type 1 diabetes.

For people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, more can be done to prevent devastating complications such as such as amputations, heart attack or stroke – which account for 80 per cent of the £10 bn a year the NHS spends on diabetes.

Despite strong evidence that giving people the knowledge and skills to manage their diabetes effectively can significantly improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of developing devastating complications, diabetes education remains a postcode lottery.

It is crucial that education and support provision caters the needs of a diverse population so that all people with diabetes can better manage their health and avoid serious complications.

By empowering people with diabetes to take better control of their condition, we can give them the best possible chance of living long and healthy lives, at the same time as saving an already strained NHS from the burden of huge, avoidable costs.

Last month Diabetes UK revealed new figures of diabetes-related amputations in England having reached an all-time high of 135 per week. This increase is significant not only for the physical impact amputations can have on individuals, their friends and families, and the psychological and financial distress, but for the fact that with good foot care, up to 80 per cent of these amputations could be avoided.

The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE), has set out a list of eight care processes it recommends everybody living with diabetes should receive.

These are identified as essential in high quality care for people with diabetes and include getting blood pressure and blood glucose levels measured, as well as the kidney function monitored. At present only six in 10 people with diabetes in England and Wales receive all eight checks.

It is therefore also critical that the Government takes urgent action to ensure that everyone with diabetes receives the eight care processes, reducing their risk of further complications and the costs of these to the NHS.

With a record number of people now living with diabetes in the UK, better care – with improved and more flexible education options for people living with diabetes as well as an increased focus on the prevention of Type 2 diabetes – need to be prioritised.

Only then will we avoid unnecessary human suffering and the cost of treating diabetes spiralling out of control.

There is no time to waste.

Stephen Ryan is the Diabetes UK regional manager.