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Diabetes care 'depressingly poor'

Almost 25,000 people die prematurely each year because their diabetes has not been managed effectively, it is claimed.

According to the Public Accounts Committee report The management of adult diabetes service in the NHS treating “avoidable complications” such as blindness and kidney disease accounts for 80% of the £3.9m spent on diabetes services.

The Department of Health (DH) estimates the number of people with diabetes - diagnosed and undiagnosed - is set to rise from 3.1m to 3.8m in 2020.

The report warns unless diabetes care improves “significantly” the NHS will continue to incur “ever-increasing” costs as the number of people with the disease rises and individuals will continue to die prematurely.

It also blasted the “depressingly poor” progress in achieving the national diabetes treatment targets - citing “weak” leadership, “ineffective” accountability arrangements for commissioners, and “inappropriate” performance incentives for providers as potential reasons for the low take up. 

“More than 10 years ago, the DH set out clear minimum standards for diabetes care, including nine basic checks for the early signs of avoidable diabetic complications,” said Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

“Yet fewer than half of people with diabetes are receiving all nine of these tests.

“Fewer than one in five people with diabetes have the recommended levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, leaving an unacceptably high number at risk of developing complications, being admitted to hospital and costing the NHS more money.”

Hodge has called on the DH to set out how improvements in diabetes care will be delivered under the reforms and hinted at a need for mandatory performance targets. 

A spokesperson from the DH said: “People with diabetes should be able to expect high-quality care from the NHS and they will receive it more consistently in future. We do not accept the conclusion that services are 'depressingly poor' as there has been progress - with an extra 750,000 people got all nine diabetes checks over the last 4 years. But we know there has been unacceptable variation and we are determined to put that right.

"We will ask the NHS Commissioning Board, in the forthcoming mandate, to make real improvements to how people with long-term conditions are supported and empowered to make decisions about their care."