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Shortage of test strips due to NHS rationing hinders blood sugar control

A new study, commissioned by the charity Diabetes UK, has found that the NHS is reducing the supply of blood sugar testing strips at the expense of people with diabetes.
Diabetes UK surveyed more than 6,000 people and 25 per cent of them had not been prescribed enough test strips to meet their needs.
A separate poll of over 1,000 people, about half of whom have type 1 diabetes, found that 27 per cent of them experienced restrictions or been refused test strips.
The two primary reasons given for the introduction of the rationing were budget constraints and/or perceived undue blood glucose testing.
Poll participants said having restricted access to test strips was putting them in the stressful situation of making the right call about when to test or not.
Others mentioned that they had concerns about the quality of strips that they are being forced to buy online or via eBay.
The report reveals that GP practices often place restrictions on test strips because of guidance issued by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
CCGs determine how often people need to test their blood sugars and impose a corresponding fixed amount of boxes of strips to be provided each month.
Since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, CCGs guidelines need to be in line with guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
NICE recommends that people with type 1 diabetes self-monitor their blood sugar levels at least four times a day and up to ten times or more in the case of hypoglycemia unawareness, illness, pregnancy or intense exercise.
Similarly, other categories of users of testing strips, such as people with type 2 diabetes on medication that can lead to hypos, like sulphonylureas and glinides, may need to test every few hours.
For someone needing the additional blood sugar testing, these guidelines alone would use more strips than what is allowed under these conditions of rationing.
A lack of regular self-monitoring of blood glucose increases risks for short-term and long-term diabetes-related complications, including hypoglycemia, ketoacidosis, nerve damage, retinopathy and heart problems.
Diabetes UK also highlights a concern in the report that people with type 2 diabetes are not encouraged to self-monitor their blood sugar and told that they should test less.
People who are struggling to manage their diabetes are urged to challenge restrictions and refusals from healthcare professionals questioning their use of strips.

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