I am delighted to be backing a campaign from leading charity Diabetes UK that could help transform the lives of people living with the condition.
On Wednesday (7 July), I attended the launch of Diabetes UK’s Diabetes Is Serious campaign, where I listened to accounts of how the disruption to health services caused by the pandemic has caused a ‘rapidly growing health crisis’ for diabetes care, with almost 2.5 million people living with diabetes in England not getting all their recommended health checks1 and tens of thousands of missed or delayed diagnoses of type 2 diabetes.
These checks are essential to reducing the risk of serious complications such as blindness, heart disease, kidney disease, amputations, and poor pregnancy outcomes.
Diabetes UK launched its new campaign, Diabetes Is Serious, to call on the UK Government to invest in diabetes care and prevention – and urge the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to put diabetes high on his agenda, building on progress made prior to the pandemic.
There are an estimated 4.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK3, and a further 13.6 million at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes4. The condition requires constant self-management but people with diabetes are also entitled to important health checks, tests, services, and support from healthcare professionals to get the care they need to reduce the risk of devastating complications.
However, figures show a worrying drop in the number of people with diabetes receiving the eight recommended care processes that are essential to reducing the risk of serious diabetes complications such as sight loss, heart disease, kidney disease, foot problems (which can lead to amputation), and poor pregnancy outcomes.
According to the National Diabetes Audit, between January and December 20201:
- More than 2.25 million (2,262,775) people with type 2 diabetes, and more than 200,000 (201,620) people with type 1 diabetes, did not get all eight vital care processes in England.
- The percentage of people with type 1 diabetes getting all eight care processes dropped by 37.5% compared to the same period in 2019.
- The percentage of people with type 2 and other types of diabetes getting all eight care processes was down by 40.8% compared to the same period in 2019.
While healthcare professionals have been working tirelessly through the pandemic, these findings reveal the extent to which diabetes services have been hit by the pandemic. This is reflected in a recent survey of almost 4,000 people living with diabetes, carried out by Diabetes UK, which showed:
- One in three people had consultations cancelled that have still not taken place.
- One in three said they had not had contact with their diabetes team since the start of the pandemic.
- 45% of respondents reported having difficulties managing their diabetes during the pandemic, the majority of whom referred to lack of access to care and support by their diabetes healthcare team as the reason.
People with diabetes have been one of the groups most affected by coronavirus. Devastatingly, people living with the condition accounted for one in three deaths in England during the first wave of the pandemic5. Evidence has shown an estimated 60,000 missed or delayed diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in the UK in the period between March and December 20202 – and early diagnosis is crucial in preventing serious complications for people with diabetes.
Diabetes UK recognises the incredible work of the NHS over the last 16 months to keep us all safe and well, and that there have been many strides forward in diabetes care and prevention in recent years. As the country recovers from the pandemic, the charity says now is the time for the new Secretary of State and Government to build on this progress, and to prioritise the health of people living with diabetes, and those at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes UK published a report, Diabetes Can’t Wait, to accompany the campaign launch. In it, the charity sets out five key recommendations to UK Government, calling for:
- Urgent prioritisation of diabetes care and prevention as a central part of Government’s response to the pandemic.
- Ring-fenced funding for local health commissioners to improve the use of diabetes tech in their areas.
- Commitment to include people with diabetes in plans to improve the country’s mental health after the pandemic.
- Funding and development of the NHS’s workforce, so that there are more staff who can provide high-quality diabetes-specific care, and;
- Further investment in services to prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes.
While the pandemic has been a challenging time for us all, it has had a particularly significant impact on people living with diabetes.
This is a serious condition which affects 4.9 million people in the UK, with a further 13.6 million at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It is clear diabetes care has been impacted by the pandemic and many people with the condition have had a very difficult time. Diabetes UK are right to highlight this and their campaign to see diabetes care prioritised has my full support.
With the right education, care and support, people with diabetes can live healthy lives. But without it, diabetes can lead to serious complications such as amputations, strokes, and heart attacks. Every week, diabetes leads to 185 amputations6, more than 770 strokes, 590 heart attacks and 2,300 cases of heart failure.
In May 2021, Diabetes UK reported that cases of diabetes had hit an all-time high, and that diagnoses had doubled in the last 15 years.
For more information about the Diabetes Is Serious campaign, visit www.diabetes.org.uk/DiabetesIsSerious.