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New NHS report on Diabetes

Up to 24,000 people with diabetes are dying avoidably each year because they do not receive the right healthcare or do not manage their condition properly, a government-commissioned report has revealed.

The “incredibly alarming” figure is the first estimate of the number of patients who die early because a failure to have health checks, take drugs at the right time and maintain a healthy lifestyle increased their risk of dangerously high or low blood sugar, heart failure or kidney problems.

While three-quarters of the 24,000 deaths are among the over-65s, younger patients are most at risk. Two young people aged 15 to 34 inEnglandare believed to die every week as a result.

While young women aged 15 to 34 have a 1 in 3,300 chance of dying, the risk to a woman of that age with type 1 diabetes is one in 360 (nine times higher), and with type 2 one in 520 (six times higher) . Young men the same age are at a similarly higher risk: one in 360 for type 1 and one in 430 for type 2, about four times higher than the average death risk of one in 1,530.

Dr Bob Young, a consultant diabetologist who led the audit, said the grim statistics gave the first “reliable measure of the huge impact of diabetes on early death. Many of these early deaths could be prevented”. Because the number of people with diabetes was increasing, the toll would increase, unless there was action to improve the situation, he added.

Paul Burstow, the care services minister, said: “The audit has revealed shocking variation in care with devastating consequences for the lives of those with diabetes. This snapshot of NHS diabetes care reveals an unacceptable death toll, a death toll that can be cut by delivering the right care at the right time. Armed with the results of this audit, I expect the NHS to learn from the best.”

An expansion of Telehealth, which lets patients use technology to monitor their condition while at home and so avoid regular trips to hospital or to see their GP, would help diabetics manage their condition better, as would greater integration of health and social care services, Burstow added.

Barbara Young, the chief executive of DiabetesUK, said the figures were “incredibly alarming as there is no reason why people with diabetes cannot live long and healthy lives if they receive the right care and support to manage their conditions.”

While self-management was important, half of those with type 2 diabetes and more than two-thirds of those with type 1 did not get the care they needed, she said.

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