New figures show that the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has topped four million for the first time, and is set to hit five million within 10 years.
The findings are taken from NHS figures analysed by Diabetes UK. The leading charity reports that, based on 2014-15 GP patient data, 4.05 million people have diabetes in the UK.
These figures include 3.5 million adults who have been officially diagnosed – up 119,965 on the previous year – and an estimated 549,000 with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Overall, the rates of diabetes have risen by 65 per cent in a decade.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for roughly 10 of diabetes in adults and is the most common form of diabetes in children.
Between 15 and 20 per cent of people in their 60s and 70s now have diabetes, while the figures suggest that eight per cent of adults live with the condition.
Rates of obesity
Obesity is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes – last month, England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies called for obesity to be classed as a “national risk” – and obesity rates in the UK are among the worst in Europe.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, believes there is now an urgent need for a “concerted effort led by the Government to take active steps to address the fact that almost two in every three people in the UK are overweight or obese and are therefore at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.”
“With four million people in the UK now living with diabetes, the need to tackle this serious health condition has never been so stark or so urgent. Basic measures such as making healthy food cheaper and more accessible, introducing clearer food labelling and making it easier for people to build physical activity into their daily lives would have a profound influence.”
Melanie Davies, professor of diabetes medicine at the University of Leicester and University, added that the four million figure is “not surprising but quite alarming. There are also lots of people at very high risk of developing diabetes over the next five to 10 years. The large driver is the increase in the number of people with type 2 diabetes, associated with obesity in the population.”
Diabetes UK also warned that over 24,000 people with diabetes die prematurely each year due to failures in the standard of diabetes care.
In October 2015, the National Audit Office criticised the care that diabetes patients receive: only 60 per cent of patients receive the eight annual checks, such as eyesight and foot care, that can prevent long-term complications, such as amputation and blindness.
Askew added: “Tragically, we are continuing to see too many people with diabetes suffering serious complications, and even dying before their time, and we know that key reasons for this are that they are being denied both the care and access to education that would help them to manage their condition well.
“It is vital that we start to see people with diabetes receive good quality care wherever they live rather than them being at the mercy of a postcode lottery.”
The NHS prevention program is to be launched nationally in the spring, and government officials hope that this will help people make lifestyle changes, such as eating more healthily and getting more exercise, to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.