The Department of Health (DOH) and NHS England have been criticised by MPs for being “too slow” in tackling the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
The Public Accounts Committee has published a new report which says the DOH and NHS England has painted an “unduly healthy” picture of the state of diabetes care, when in fact big improvements need to be made.
Diabetes accounts for roughly 10 per cent of the NHS’ budget – for people aged 16 and over this bill currently stands at £5.5bn per year – with 80 per cent of these costs due to complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease and nerve damage. While the risk of complications can be reduced if caught early, the committee said there were “unacceptable variations” in care, education and treatment of patients across the country.
Some people with diabetes are 65 per cent more likely to die in certain parts of the country following diagnosis, while in other areas this figure is as low as 10 per cent. The report highlighted that 60 per cent receive the annual health checks recommended to prevent long-term complications from developing.
Meg Hillier, Chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The NHS and Department for Health have been too slow in tackling diabetes, both in prevention and treatment. The number of people with diabetes is increasing, as is the number of patients who develop complications. It is a very serious condition that can have a huge impact on people’s lives.”
Earlier this year, a Diabetes UK report revealed that diabetes rates in the UK have hit four million for the first time – 10 per cent of cases are believed to be type 1 diabetes. The report warns that an additional 150,000 people a year are being diagnosed with diabetes, and this places increasing strain on the NHS.
Staffing levels in hospitals are “not keeping pace” with the increased demand for beds occupied by diabetes patients, according to the report.
It said: “The percentage of beds in acute hospitals in England occupied by people with diabetes continues to rise, from 14.8 per cent in 2010 to 15.7 per cent in 2013. However, the level of diabetic specialists has not significantly changed over this period. In 2013, nearly one-third of hospitals in England taking part in the audit had no diabetes inpatient specialist nurse and 6 per cent did not have any consultant time for diabetes inpatient care.”
The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme has been launched as the Government tries to stem the increasing rates of type 2 diabetes diagnoses, but the report added, “by itself, this will not be enough to stem the rising number of people with diabetes”.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The NHS has made big improvements in diabetes care by reducing mortality and complications arising from the disease – but any variation in care as this report highlights is deeply concerning.”

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