Diabetes UK has published its annual snapshot of NHS provision for diabetes sufferers in England. The charity found that there has been “very little overall improvement" in diabetes provision over the past year and, in some areas of care, provision has got worse. "Avoidable deaths, record rates of complications and huge costs to the NHS" result from poor diabetes care.
The charity found that the level of care varies widely across England while younger diabetes sufferers have access to fewer check-ups than older patients.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends a series of annual checks for all those with type 1 diabetes (who need treatment with insulin.) However, the charity found that only 41% of those with type 1 diabetes were getting these annual checks while a mere 16% received all the target checks for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar recommended by NICE.
Diabetes is a chronic condition which needs to be managed carefully. Poor management can result in complications such as amputations, kidney failure, blindness, stroke and shortened life expectancy.
Although one tenth of the NHS budget is spent on diabetes care, Diabetes UK argues that most of this money is used to manage diabetes complications rather than being spent on preventing complications arising in the first place. Although the condition is "the fastest growing health threat of our times", the care models currently used are not effective. Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young, was quoted in a BBC News article as saying "This is not a question of spending more money. In fact, better ongoing standards of care will save money and reduce pressure on NHS resources."
The charity is arguing for more work to ensure diabetes sufferers receive the regular checks they need through their GPs to support and educate them to manage their own condition, while improving the care those with diabetes received in hospital.
Camilla Wonnacott, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP said: "The variation in care between younger and older sufferers is particularly worrying as is the wide variation in provision depending on where in England a patient accesses services.
“Clearly, we still have a long way to go to meet the Government's target to ensure that 80% of all diabetes sufferers receive all their recommended annual checks by 2018. We continue to see claims involving diabetes sufferers with complications that have arisen due to lack of patient education, poor management or follow up or a combination of all three problems. A good standard of diabetes care across England is vital so that sufferers avoid the distressing, life-changing and often life-limiting complications of this disease."