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Diabetes ‘timebomb’ as millions go without health checks



The health service is facing a care ‘timebomb’ after almost 2.5m people with diabetes in England went without vital health checks during the Covid-19 pandemic, a charity has warned.

Diabetes UK has urged the new health and social care secretary Sajid Javid to put diabetes high on his agenda following a ‘worrying drop’ in people with diabetes accessing services.

The charity has also called for NHS workforce funding so there are more staff to provide diabetes care and further investment to prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes, as part of its new campaign ‘Diabetes Is Serious’, launched today.

This comes after recent National Diabetes Audit data, between January and December 2020, found more than 2.25m people with type 2 diabetes, and more than 200,000 with type 1 diabetes, did not receive all eight of the ‘care processes’ – or vital health checks – they should each year.

This is a drop of 37.5% for people with type 1 diabetes getting all eight care processes compared to 2019, and a 40.8% drop for people with type 2 diabetes.

The eight care processes recommended for people with diabetes are annual checks of HbA1c, blood pressure, cholesterol, serum creatinine, urine albumin, foot surveillance, BMI and smoking.

Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said the ‘Government must make diabetes a priority and invest properly in fighting it’ to tackle the ‘rapidly growing crisis for diabetes care’.

He added: ‘Healthcare professionals are working incredibly hard to clear the backlog of missed and cancelled routine health checks, consultations and referrals and we are extremely grateful to them. But they are working with limited resources… It’s time for the Government to act, now.’

These are essential to reducing the risk of serious diabetes complications such as sight loss, heart disease, kidney disease, foot problems (which can lead to amputation) and poor pregnancy outcomes. 

A Diabetes UK survey from April and May this year of almost 4,000 people with diabetes also found 45% reported difficulties managing their diabetes during the pandemic, with the majority citing lack of access to care and support by their diabetes healthcare team.

A third said they had not had contact with their diabetes team since the start of the pandemic, while another third had consultations cancelled that still had not taken place, the survey also found.

In December, a survey of diabetes units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed a fifth of childhood type 1 diabetes diagnoses appear to have been delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are an estimated 4.9m people living with diabetes in the UK and a further 13.6m at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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