A report released by Diabetes UK, shows that short term cost cutting measures by the NHS is likely to cost the UK more in the long term.
The Cost of Diabetes report, which uses figures from 2010-2011, estimates the cost of diabetes to be around £10 billion a year, with the cost of treating complications responsible for 80% of the NHS’ diabetes budget.
The report shows that effective spending on measures to prevent serious complications saves the NHS more money than strategies based around short term cost cutting.
One example of the savings to be experienced through stronger spending is in foot care. NHS spending on treating foot ulcers and amputations is in excess of £200 million, representing more than the cost that is spent on blood glucose test strips.
In a comparison of different hospital trusts, Diabetes UK found that hospitals which introduced multidisciplinary foot specialist teams, and ensured patients received rapid access to those teams, more than halved the number of amputations and saved the NHS four times the amount of money than they cost.
One of the largest costs of diabetes is on excess inpatient days which represent a huge cost of over £1.7 billion. People with diabetes occupy 1 in 7 hospital beds and stay in hospital an average 3 days longer than patients without diabetes.
The longer hospital stays occur for reasons varying from medication errors by NHS staff to avoidable deterioration of health whilst in hospital. Hospitals employing diabetes specialist teams have been shown to reduce excess inpatient days and save on the associated costs.
The report highlights that only 1 in 10 people newly diagnosed with diabetes are being referred for structured diabetes education, despite the fact that diabetes education has been shown reduce the risk of expensive complications. Diabetes UK highlights the DAFNE programme that, over 10 years, has been shown to provide savings of £2,200 per patient that attends the course.
Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young, emphasised the importance of not letting short term cost cutting jeopardise the future health of people with diabetes: “Too often, the focus is on cutting costs in the short-term such as by cutting diabetes specialist nurses, restricting access to blood glucose test strips and poorly planned transferrals to primary care. But this is making it difficult for those with diabetes to manage the condition and is offering poor value for money for taxpayers.”

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