The NHS spends an estimated £10 billion per year on diabetes related treatments, a great deal of which is unnecessary, writes Adrian Sanders MP.
Diabetes remains one of the largest challenges to our healthcare system, with around 3.7 million sufferers in the UK and almost a million more estimated to have the condition but who do not know it. This is likely to get worse. Unhealthy lifestyles in the UK put a further 7 million people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and in ten years’ time we may see the number of patients pass the 5 million mark.
All this places a significant burden on the NHS, with an estimated spend of £10 billion per year on diabetes related treatments. A great deal of this spend is unnecessary. Diabetics far too often suffer from late diagnosis, preventable complications and variations in care. They are often overlooked for specialist care when being treated for other conditions, particularly in hospitals, and they can be prevented from accessing treatment by the short term financial ethos embedded in far too many Care Trusts across the country.
Some studies have found that around 80 per cent of the spend on diabetes is avoidable so the main focus the Government needs to take is how to deploy resources effectively to help people manage their diabetes and even more importantly, prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes-the type related to lifestyle-in the first place.
This is being made more challenging by the NHS reforms, which, even if they were perfect, would cause disruption, and the fear that the new commissioners will take something of a short term approach to managing budgets in light of the priority for deficit reduction.
The Government can rectify some of these problems through national leadership. The National Service Framework, which has guided diabetes care since 2001 is due for renewal and it is a very appropriate time for Ministers to look at how to spend wisely now, and disseminate best practice across the NHS to reduce long term costs. Achieving this would have the happy coincidence of better patient outcomes; arguably what the priority should always be for Ministers and officials.