NHS faces diabetes time bomb
Friday, 1 July 2011
The NHS faces a huge rise in the cost of caring for people with diabetes, experts have warned. The National Diabetes Audit 2010 has shown an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in England and Wales, and an increased risk of complications among younger people with diabetes.
Authors of the audit, the largest of its kind in the world, described their findings as a “time bomb” threatening the NHS, as hundreds of thousands of younger diabetic people develop complications.
The National Diabetes Audit 2010 reported that 300,000 children and younger adults with diabetes had blood sugar levels that put them at high risk of “severe and disabling” complications such as kidney failure, limb amputation and stroke. A further 144,000 were at very high risk of these complications.
The authors found that children and younger adults (<55 years) with diabetes were less likely than middle-aged (55-69 years) and elderly patients (70+) to receive all the basic health checks that they should be having, further increasing the likelihood “that a large cohort of a whole generation with diabetes will require substantial hospital care in a matter of years”.
Children and younger patients with type 2 diabetes were less likely than older patients to have a healthy bodyweight – nine in ten were overweight or obese.
The audit also found that there was “substantial regional variation” in both the prevalence and management of diabetes complications.
The audit’s lead clinician Dr Bob Young, consultant diabetologist and clinical lead for the National Diabetes Information Service, said: “These results ring alarm bells. They show that younger people make up a quarter of all those with diabetes yet have the highest risks of potentially preventable complications.
“If these risks could be reduced much future disability and shortened life expectancy could be prevented.”
Dr Rowan Hillson, national clinical director for diabetes, said: “I am very concerned that … we still have a long way to go in delivering basic standards of diabetes care for everyone. In particular, young and middle-aged people with diabetes are not getting the regular checks they need to manage their condition for better outcomes.
“This is something we must improve if the NHS is going to meet the future challenge it faces from diabetes. These checks are vital to reduce serious but avoidable complications. All health care professionals should follow NICE’s clear recommendations. There is no excuse for not doing the basics well.”