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Minimal improvement in diabetes care since 2012

Last week, the National Audit Office published its report on the management of diabetes adult services in the NHS. Worryingly, this report has found that there has been very little improvement in diabetes care in the past three years. The report has also found that 22,000 people with diabetes are dying early each year from diabetes-related complications that potentially could have been avoided.

Other examples of poor care highlighted in the report include:

  • Very few people newly diagnosed with diabetes are receiving education that could help them to manage their condition and reduce the risk of developing complications.
  • The delivery of diabetes healthcare is still marked by significant variation with the percentage of people with diabetes receiving the eight recommended care processes ranging between 30 per cent and 76 per cent across different geographical areas – sometimes referred to as a postcode lottery for good care.
  • Young people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are receiving considerably worse routine care than other people with diabetes, and are less likely to have their condition under control. This is a huge concern as it means they are at greater risk of complications later in life.
  • There has been no improvement in the number of people with diabetes getting the annual checks recommended by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and achieving recommended treatment targets, which can help reduce risk of complications and early death (these checks include blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels among others).

What can be done?

The report makes several recommendations for improving the delivery of diabetes care, in particular it recommends that the NHS sets out how it intends to hold clinical commissioning groups, who are responsible for organising local NHS services, to account for poor performance in delivering the key checks and the three treatment targets.

Robin Hewings, Head of Policy at Diabetes UK, recommends that the NHS also needs to improve the number of people receiving access to high quality education courses to manage their own condition:

Few areas have a serious plan to ensure everyone receives an education course about how to manage their diabetes. As the report notes, at the moment just 16 per cent of people newly diagnosed with diabetes are offered access to a formal course covering how to effectively manage their condition.

More and more people are living with diabetes. And if we continue like we are the costs of treating the complications of diabetes will become overwhelming. That means we need to take radical action to prevent Type 2 diabetes. But with over three million people already living with all types of diabetes, healthcare needs to get much better at enabling people to manage their diabetes day-to-day

With an increasing number of people at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, this report should act as a serious push for the NHS and government to act on improving diabetes care across the UK.

You can read the NAO report here. 

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