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The price of poor diabetes care.

View profile for Kim Daniells
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There is growing concern for people living with diabetes after a major charity report said that delayed routine health checks may have contributed to 7,000 more deaths than usual in England last year.

Charity, Diabetes UK, says too many people are still being left to manage the condition on their own.

Their report says that more than five million people in the UK live with diabetes, but around 1.9m missed out on vital routine checks in 2021-22.

Between January and March 2023 there were 1,461 excess deaths involving the condition, three times higher than during the same period in 2022. The Diabetes UK report says: "Urgent action is needed to reverse this trend and support everyone with diabetes to live well with the condition.”

About 90% of people with diabetes have a form called Type 2 but about 8% per cent have Type 1 diabetes, which is the most common in children and young adults. It starts suddenly and cannot be prevented, but it is treated with daily insulin doses.

Both types can be managed with routine health checks, but the charity's report says almost 300,000 fewer people with diabetes received all eight recommended checks in 2022 compared to the year before the pandemic (2019-20).

The report also highlights that there were 7,000 more deaths than normal involving people with diabetes last year, 13% up on pre-pandemic figures. Only 47% of people with diabetes in England received all eight of their required checks in 2021-22, down from 57% before the pandemic.

In some of the most deprived areas, only 10% had received routine checks and one in 10 people surveyed in the poorest areas said they had had no contact with their healthcare team in more than a year.

Diabetes UK is urging the government to draw up plans to tackle the backlog, reduce health inequalities and provide more support to help prevent people developing Type 2 diabetes.

NHS England has said that returning routine care to pre-pandemic levels is a priority and, as part of this, local areas had been given £36m to help restore diabetes services and, while the proportion of people receiving all eight NHS diabetes care processes had continued to improve towards pre-pandemic levels, there was still work to do.

A specialist in Clinical Negligence and Catastrophic Injury claims (CNCI) at Harrowells Solicitors, Kim Daniells, says: “the pandemic had a significant impact upon the monitoring and management of many chronic conditions. We know from accounts we have heard that in some cases, patients were unable to access routine diabetes monitoring at all between 2020 and late 2022. For many, their only monitoring and support was by way of telephone or video calls.

“The checks required for effective diabetes care, including eye examinations, foot checks, blood tests etc, cannot be managed remotely. The implications for failings in monitoring are serious, not just for the individuals but also for society.

“Poor diabetes control is much more likely to lead to significantly impaired vision, kidney damage and amputations - but with good management, underlying health issues can be addressed and serious complications can often be prevented. 

"If the issues with diabetes monitoring are not swiftly addressed then our society will have to cope with many more people suffering severe disability, often at relatively young ages, people who cannot then work, or pay tax, and who will require significant care in an already overstretched NHS.”