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Cost of diabetes to UK estimated at £14 billion, research shows

Cost of diabetes to UK estimated at £14 billion, research shows

Analysis has highlighted that diabetes treatment and management are a ‘considerable cost burden’ to the NHS, accounting for approximately six per cent of the UK health budget.

An updated cost of illness analysis, commissioned by Diabetes UK and carried out by York Health Economics Consortium at the University of York, estimates that type 1, 2 and gestational diabetes together cost the UK almost £14 billion in 2021/22. Over £6 billion of this was used to treat diabetes-related complications, which are mostly preventable.

The findings, published in Diabetic Medicine, highlight the need to invest in new technology so patients can better manage their condition. The researchers are also calling for a continued focus on prevention strategies, particularly in the under-40s, where rising levels of diabetes are a ‘particular concern’.

More than 5.6 million people in the UK are living with diabetes. Without the proper treatment and support, serious complications can arise, including heart attack, strokes and amputations. Since the consortium’s last report in 2012, the rate of complications associated with diabetes has been decreasing, but the costs associated with these complications remain high and make up the most significant proportion of the total diabetes spending.

Of the £10.7 billion in direct costs to the NHS, the researchers found that approximately £4.4 billion is spent covering routine diabetes care, which includes diagnosis, GP and nurse appointments, eye screening, blood tests, medications, diabetes technology, education and support programmes, and specialist diabetes teams. The remainder of NHS costs are spent on treating the complications of diabetes.

Indirect costs, such as productivity loss from absence from work or death, are estimated at £3.3 billion annually.

Nick Hex, associate director for the NHS and Public Sector at the York Health Economics Consortium, University of York, said: ‘Diabetes remains a considerable cost burden to the NHS, and most of those costs are still spent on potentially preventable complications.’

He added: ‘Increased investment in new technologies that help people manage their condition contribute to some of the high ongoing costs, but the rise in type 2 diabetes in under 40 year-olds is a particular concern and there needs to be continued focus on prevention strategies. It is also essential that health commissioners continue to invest in diabetes prevention, care and treatment to reduce future cost implications.’

The study also revealed gaps in the data, which the researchers say need to be addressed to ensure better treatment and management of the condition for people of all sexes, ethnicities, and geographical locations.

Colette Marshall, chief executive at Diabetes UK, said: ‘This new research paints a stark picture, with billions of pounds being spent treating devastating diabetes complications. These complications cause untold hardship to many thousands of people and are, in most cases, preventable with the right care.’

She added: ‘Shifting the dial from crisis to preventative care would help to reduce the harm from diabetes, allowing people with the condition to live well while, ultimately, reducing the cost to the health service.’


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