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Child diabetes emergency cases rise

Thousands of children taken to A&E over diabetes

OnMedica staff

Monday, 23 June 2008

Urgent action is needed to tackle the growing numbers of children being taken to emergency departments over serious diabetes complications, it has been claimed.

Charity Diabetes UK said that latest figures show that last year there were 3,317 cases of children in England admitted to accident and emergency departments with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

DKA occurs when blood glucose levels are high (hyperglycaemia) causing nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, rapid breathing and can lead to coma.

The charity is worried that the illness is going undiagnosed and that parents and health workers are failing to spot early symptoms of the disease.

The figures released by the charity show that children and young people under 18 accounted for over a quarter of the 12,326 emergency admissions for DKA, during the 12-month period from April 2006 to March 2007.

In addition, the number of admissions for the under 18s with diabetes increased 8% compared to the previous year.

The UK has the fourth highest incidence of Type 1 diabetes in children (22 per 100,000 a year) in Europe and the lowest number of children attaining good diabetes control.

Greater awareness is needed, said Diabetes UK, which is concerned that in many cases, DKA occurs because Type 1 diabetes is undiagnosed and often diabetes is only diagnosed when DKA is identified.

The charity is calling for better education and awareness amongst parents and healthcare professionals of the early symptoms of diabetes including DKA and access to high quality specialist diabetes services for children and young people living with diabetes.

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK said: “The number of children being rushed to A&E with such a life-threatening complication is shocking.

“In previous research by Diabetes UK, specialist diabetes staff reported that cuts in diabetes services resulted in an increase in emergency hospital admissions.

“With increased awareness and education and more investment from the NHS in specialist paediatric diabetes care, the number of emergency admissions could be dramatically reduced. Action must be taken now to improve the quality of life for our children.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health agreed that children and young people with diabetes should have access to support from a specialist team.

“The government has recognised that the quality of diabetes care for children and young people can be variable and we set up a working group [in 2005] to establish what needed to be done to improve this,” he said.

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