Rising tide of diabetes ‘could sink the NHS’

DIABETES care in England is in a “state of crisis” with fewer than half of sufferers getting the basic minimum care, says a new report.

Diabetes UK says the NHS last year spent £1m an hour on diabetes – with 80 per cent going on managing avoidable complications.

The charity’s latest State of the Nation report reveals a health postcode lottery with only six per cent of sufferers in the worst-performing areas getting the basic health checks and services recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – but up to 69 per cent in the best.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Diabetes UK says the lack of checks has helped to fuel a rise in rates of diabetes-related complications such as amputation, blindness, kidney failure and strokes.

The report reveals that a quarter of children and young people with Type 1 diabetes are only diagnosed when they already need emergency treatment.

In other respects young people also lose out: only four per cent for children and young people get all their annual checks, while 85 per cent are not meeting their blood glucose targets.

Diabetes UK is calling on the Government to urgently deliver a plan to implement standards set out 11 years ago in the National Service Framework for diabetes.

They are asking people to urge their MP to write to Minister for Care Services Paul Burstow, demanding an improvement plan.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said the problem was “getting out of control” and despite huge amounts of spending by the NHS, people with diabetes were getting “second rate healthcare”.

She said a new approach was needed to prevent a “rising tide of diabetes from sinking the NHS.”

In the UK there are 3.7 million people with diabetes – including an estimated 850,000 with Type 2 diabetes who do not realise they have the condition. Diabetes is now nearly four times as prevalent as all the cancers combined.

Baroness Young said: “We already know that diabetes is costing the NHS a colossal amount of money, but this report shows how in exchange for this investment we are getting second rate healthcare that is putting people with diabetes at increased risk of tragic complications and early death.

“Whether showing the number of children with Type 1 diabetes who are only diagnosed at accident and emergency or highlighting the thousands of preventable diabetes-related amputations performed every year, the report shows that diabetes healthcare has drifted into a state of crisis. It is a compelling case for change.

“Above all, the wide variation in standards of care shows the need for a national plan to be put in place for giving people with diabetes the kind of healthcare that can help prevent complications, as well as a greater focus on preventing Type 2 diabetes.”

She said a long-term approach ensuring people got basic checks and services was “the only way to prevent what is a looming national health disaster”, adding: “With the number of people with diabetes rising so rapidly, unless urgent action is taken now, this rising tide threatens to sink the NHS.”

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: "There is still much to be done to help tackle diabetes and root out poor care.

“That is why we are working on a new long term conditions strategy with diabetes as an exemplar.

“Our focus is on prevention and education, with more done to get earlier diagnoses and to help people manage their conditions themselves.

“This report and our new strategy will help local NHS services act so that diabetics get the care they need and deserve.”

Around three people are diagnosed with diabetes every 10 minutes in the UK and by 2025 it is estimated that five million people will have the disease.

Type 1 diabetes where the body cannot produce any insulin normally appears before the age of 40 and accounts for 10 per cent of the cases.

The huge increase has been in Type 2 diabetes, which is linked with rising obesity rates, and usually appears in people aged over 40. A healthy diet and increased physical activity helps but medication and/or insulin is often needed.