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Over 3.2m UK adults have diabetes

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has increased to more than 3.2 million,  new figures show. 

Official NHS data shows there were 3,208,014 adults with the condition in 2013, an increase of more than 163,000 compared to 2012. 

According to Diabetes UK, this is the biggest increase in a single year since 2008. Now, 6% of UK adults are now diagnosed with diabetes. 

The figures do not include the hundreds of thousands of people with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

The charity wants local NHS organisations to commit to:

 - Fully implementing the NHS Health Check (which should be offered to everyone aged 40 to 74) to identify help people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes. As well as the programme only being patchily introduced so far, the NHS needs to do more to ensure those at high risk are given effective lifestyle interventions to help prevent it. As well as being important for prevention, the NHS Health Check can help ensure that people with Type 2 are diagnosed as early as possible so they can start getting the support they need to manage it.

 - Ensuring everyone with diabetes is offered education on how to manage their condition. At the moment, just one in 10 people who are newly diagnosed are offered it, despite strong evidence education is a cost-effective way of giving people the knowledge they need to manage their condition.

 - Increasing the proportion of people with diabetes getting the nine annual checks recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. These checks help people manage their condition and identify any signs of complications early, but there is currently large geographical variation in the proportion of people getting them.

 - Urgently improving hospital care for people with diabetes. This is because too many hospital inpatients with diabetes experience medication errors and are not seen by a diabetes specialist team.

The NHS already spends 10% of its entire budget on diabetes and 80% of this goes on treating complications such as amputation, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. According to Diabetes UK, the most effective way to stop diabetes spending increasing to unsustainable levels is to ensure people with diabetes get the ongoing healthcare that can help prevent complications.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “The big increase in the number of people with diabetes confirms that we are in the middle of an unfolding public health disaster that demands urgent action and it is frightening to think that one in 17 people you walk past in the street has been diagnosed with the condition.

“While some areas do provide excellent care, this is not happening often enough, From access to education when people are diagnosed right the way through to the care they receive in hospital, there are too many people getting a raw deal and this is fuelling high rates of diabetes related complications and early death." 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Diabetes continues to have an increasingly devastating effect on both the nation's health and the budget of the NHS, and shows no sign of slowing down its grip on public health any time soon. These figures lay bare the scale of the problem we are facing and the urgent need for those in the health system to act now to combat the disease.  

“What is vital is that people who have been diagnosed with diabetes ensure that it is effectively monitored to prevent complications. I'm concerned with the lack of investment in specialist diabetic nurses - this is a classic example of where you can invest now in the NHS to save money in the long-term, while at the same time giving people the care that they deserve. Nursing staff have a vital role and clear responsibilities when caring for people living with diabetes and provide essential support to enable them to manage their condition and avoid complications.”

Diabetes UK believes the massive increase may due to change in methodology (the figure now includes people with rarer forms of diabetes as well as with type 1 and type 2), while some new cases may reflect improvements in diagnosis. 

Even taking this into account, the new figures demonstrate that the sharp rise in people with diabetes seen in the UK over the last decade shows no sign of slowing down.