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GPs to refer patients to large-scale diabetes prevention scheme

20,000 places available in first wave of programme

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

GPs will be able to refer patients judged to be at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes on to what is being called the world’s first nationwide programme to stop them developing the condition.

The new Healthier You: the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme announced today will start this year with a first wave of 27 areas covering 26 million people, making up to 20,000 places available. This will be expanded throughout England by 2020 with an expected 100,000 referrals available each year after.

Patients referred by their GP on to the scheme will get tailored, personalised help to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes including education on healthy eating and lifestyle, help to lose weight, and bespoke physical exercise programmes.

Currently, there are around 2.6 million people with type 2 diabetes in England with around 200,000 new diagnoses every year even though type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through lifestyle changes.

The new programme is a joint initiative by NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK.

Since March of last year, seven demonstrator sites have been trialling different models of finding people known to be at high risk and helping them change their lifestyles.

Over nine months, patients will be offered at least 13 education and exercise sessions of one to two hours per session, at least 16 hours face to face or 1-to-1 in total.

Three quarters of CCGs joined forces with local authorities to bid to become part of the first wave and will now work with providers to develop a service over the next few months.

Simon Stevens NHS England’s chief executive, said: “Around 500 people every day find out they’ve got type 2 diabetes – a serious but often preventable health condition. By offering targeted support for at-risk individuals, the NHS is now playing our part in the wider campaign against obesity – which is already costing the country more than we spend on the police and fire service combined.

“The benefits for patients will show up as hospitalisations prevented, strokes avoided and amputations averted.”

Chris Askew, Diabetes UK chief executive, added: “That people in England identified at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes will be offered personalised support to help them to eat well, become more active and maintain a healthy weight is a significant step in the right direction.”

The RCGP welcomed the programme and its chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “GPs and our teams play a key role in delivering care to patients with diabetes, not just in treating them, but in providing lifestyle advice to help them manage their condition and prevent it getting worse, but we know that simply educating people about the importance of behaviour change is not enough.

“The sort of long-term behaviour change we need to see is hard to inspire and requires our patients to have ongoing support and access to help over time, so we hope that this initiative will facilitate this in a way that helps them and the health service as a whole.”

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