More than 3,000 emergency hospital admissions a year for children with diabetes

Monday 08 February 2010

Latest figures reveal that last year there were more than 3,300 cases of children in England admitted to accident and emergency departments with DKA.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs when blood glucose levels are high (hyperglycaemia) and causes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, rapid breathing and, if left untreated, may lead to coma. DKA requires urgent hospital treatment.

Rise in hospital admissions

Children and young people under 18 accounted for around a quarter of the 13,465 emergency admissions for DKA during the 12-month period from April 2008 to March 2009. In addition, the numbers of DKA hospital admissions have risen steadily in recent years, with an increase of almost nine per cent since 2006.

The UK has the fourth highest incidence of Type 1 diabetes in children (25 per 100,000 a year) in Europe and the lowest number of children attaining good diabetes control. Diabetes UK is concerned that in many cases DKA occurs because Type 1 diabetes is not diagnosed early enough.

Better access to diabetes teams needed

“It’s shocking to see such high numbers of children being rushed to A&E with this serious complication," said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.

"We know from our previous research that specialist diabetes staff report an increase in emergency hospital admissions whenever there are cuts in services.

“Children and their parents desperately need better access to paediatric specialist diabetes teams. The  number of emergency admissions could be reduced significantly with investment in appropriate care, diabetes advice and practical self-management support.

"The quality of life for children with diabetes is at stake so we must act now.”

Parliamentary Question

The information, obtained in an answer to a Parliamentary Question asked by Withington MP John Leech, reveals where better provision of information on diabetes is needed.

John Leech commented: “These figures show where there is still a lot of work to be done in making people aware of information and specialist care needed for those suffering from diabetes. It is worrying to think that so many children are put at risk and this is another reason why it is essential that cuts to the health service are prevented.”