Article By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online
Poor diabetes care in England is leading to avoidable deaths, record rates of complications and huge costs to the NHS, a charity is warning.
Diabetes UK says the disease is the fastest growing health threat of our times and current care models are not working to get on top of the problem.
The NHS spends a tenth of its budget on diabetes, but most goes on managing complications not preventing them.
The government says it is focusing on early intervention.
Long and healthy life
Diabetes is a chronic condition and, if poorly managed, can lead to devastating complications, including blindness, amputations, kidney failure, stroke and early death.
Best-practice guidelines say patients should get regular checks to ensure they are controlling their condition well enough to avoid future complications.
But official audits of NHS care in England show many patients do not receive these checks.
Diabetes UK’s own annual snapshot says there has been very little overall improvement in diabetes provision in the past year and that some aspects of care have got worse – such as fewer people with type 1 diabetes receiving an annual check-up.
It says just 41% of people with type 1 diabetes – which must be treated with insulin – receive all the annual checks recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and only 16% meet the three recommended treatment targets for blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Young diabetes patients receive fewer vital checks than older patients. There is also wide variation depending on where you live in England.
People with diabetes living in some areas receive better care and treatment than people living in other areas, says the charity.
Barbara Young, Diabetes UK chief executive, said: “This is not a question of spending more money. In fact, better ongoing standards of care will save money and reduce pressure on NHS resources.
“It’s about people getting the checks they need at their GP surgery and giving people the support and education they need to be able to manage their own condition. Doing this, together with improving diabetes care in hospital, would give people with diabetes a better chance of a long and healthy life, and save the NHS a significant amount of money. We want to work with local authorities to be able to help them put good practice into place.”
Prof Kevin Fenton, from Public Health England, said free health checks were available to help spot and manage diabetes. He said disease prevention programmes were also under way.
“PHE and NHS England are developing a nationwide type 2 diabetes prevention programme which will support those most at risk to make essential lifestyle changes – such as losing weight, improving their diet and being more active.
“We need to help people take early action to reduce their risk of developing this serious condition.”
Diabetes is currently estimated to cost the UK £23.7bn. With diabetes becoming more common, this figure is set to rise to £40bn by 2035-36.