Advising with empathy and experience

Poor diabetes care linked to excess deaths


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.

The routine checks help cut the risk of serious complications like amputations and heart attacks but the charity, Diabetes UK, says too many people are still being left to manage the condition on their own.

The 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.

According to the BBC, disruption to care during and after the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be a factor in the huge backlog, which Diabetes UK says may be leading to higher numbers of deaths than usual in people with diabetes.

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.”

One diabetic, Anthony Parker, 44, from Berkshire, who has lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of 10, was due to have a check-up on his condition in January 2020, but it never took place. He waited 18 months for another appointment, which was held by a telephone call and which he says was a "waste of time.”

In the meantime, he developed an eye condition called retinopathy, which has damaged his eyesight and affected his general health, mental wellbeing and quality of life.

Anthony says he has a good GP who carries out some of the routine checks he needs on his blood pressure and cholesterol but his most recent diabetic consultant appointment was also by telephone, which he says, "is not what I need."

About 90% of people with diabetes have a form called Type 2, which means they do not produce enough insulin to turn food into energy. Type 2 is usually treated with a healthy diet and regular exercise, coupled with medication, which may include insulin.

About eight 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.

Also, 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.