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Over 4 million people now have diabetes

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Over 4 million people now have diabetes

Improving care would help avoid health complications that account for 80 per cent of the NHS’ £10 billion annual spend on diabetes

More than 4 million people are now living with diabetes in the UK, according to figures released today by Diabetes UK.

The new figures, extracted from GP patient data, show that the number of people with the condition has risen by almost 120,000 since last year, and by 65 per cent over the decade. Almost 550,000 people are thought to have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

As the number of people living with the condition continues to escalate, Diabetes UK is warning that the need for the NHS to commit to providing adequate care and diabetes education across the UK is more urgent than ever. Until this happens – and the National Audit Office recently criticised the often poor standard of care – large numbers of people will end up experiencing potentially preventable diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney failure and amputation.

Over 24,000 people a year with diabetes die before their time, which Diabetes UK says is because:

  • Only 60 per cent of people with diabetes are getting the eight NICE recommended checks, which are key to identifying any problems early enough to prevent complications
  • Diabetes education courses are not being commissioned for people in over a third of areas in England
  • Hospital care for people with diabetes is consistently poor and, in a significant minority of cases, is putting people’s lives at risk.

This is despite evidence that improving care would help avoid health complications that account for 80 per cent of the NHS’ £10 billion annual spend on diabetes, according to Diabetes UK.

Prevention better than treatment

The charity is also calling for a greater focus on preventing type 2 diabetes. It described the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme – a joint commitment from NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK to deliver at scale evidence-based behavioural interventions for individuals identified as being at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – as "an important first step" but said more needed to be done to help people lead healthy lifestyles.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “With 4 million people in the UK now living with diabetes, the need to tackle this serious health condition has never been so stark or so urgent. Tragically, we are continuing to see too many people with diabetes suffering serious complications, and even dying before their time, and we know that key reasons for this are that they are being denied both the care and access to education that would help them to manage their condition well.

"It is vital that we start to see people with diabetes receive good quality care wherever they live rather than them being at the mercy of a postcode lottery. Equally, diabetes education needs to be readily available everywhere, and commissioned along with a proper local system that explains to people with diabetes the benefits they will gain from attending an education course, and ensures that courses are well run.

“We also need a concerted effort led by the Government to take active steps to address the fact that almost two in every three people in the UK are overweight or obese and are therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Basic measures such as making healthy food cheaper and more accessible, introducing clearer food labelling and making it easier for people to build physical activity into their daily lives would have a profound influence."

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