Diabetics are being put at risk of life-threatening complications due to a shortage of specialists in the NHS, according to experts on the disease.
A study by the charity Diabetes UK and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) found that the number of training places for specialists is not expanding fast enough to tackle the rising prevalence of the condition.
While the number of people with adult onset, or type 2 diabetes is predicted to double this decade, the number of doctors trained to manage the disease remains unchanged.
The RCP also warned that 100% more consultants were needed to cope with the current number of patients.
Undiagnosed or poorly-treated diabetes can lead to heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, strokes or amputations.
The chief executive of Diabetes UK, Paul Streets, said: “Diabetes is too deadly to ignore. Without enough diabetes specialists in our hospitals people will die unnecessarily.
“GPs are already struggling to cope with a lack of resources for managing diabetes. If they cannot refer people to specialists the problem will only get worse.”
The RCP said the situation was “even more catastrophic because half the people with type 2 diabetes in the UK are as yet undiagnosed”.
Professor Sir George Alberti, president of the RCP and the International Diabetes Federatio, said: “We are sitting on a time bomb and will not be able to deliver the necessary care demanded by both our patients and the government through the new national service framework (NSF) for diabetes unless drastic action is taken.”
The report’s author, Dr Richard Greenwood of the Norfolk and Norwich University hospital NHS trust, said just one in five health authorities in England and Wales have the recommended number of diabetes consultants.
He added that it was already proving difficult to fill existing consultant vacancies due to a lack of suitable applicants.
The study found that if the number of specialists expanded at the rate recommended by the NHS’s manpower advisors, the medical workforce advisory team, the current number of trainees would only fill about half of the new posts.
Dr Greenwood added that the government’s forthcoming diabetes NSF, which sets out standards of care, must ensure resources are invested in supporting doctors and nurses.