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NHS spending on diabetes 'to reach £16.9 billion by 2035'

Wednesday 25 April 2012

A new report published in the journal Diabetic Medicine has projected that the NHS’s annual spending on diabetes in the UK will increase from £9.8 billion to £16.9 billion over the next 25 years, a rise that means the NHS would be spending 17% of its entire budget on the condition.

The Impact Diabetes report also suggests that the cost of treating diabetes complications is expected to almost double from the current total of £7.7 billion to £13.5 billion by 2035/6.

Preventable complications

Authored by the York Health Economic Consortium and developed in partnership between Diabetes UK, JDRF and Sanofi Diabetes, the report highlights the large percentage (79%) of NHS diabetes spending that goes on complications – many of which are preventable. Investing in the checks and services that help people manage the condition and thereby reduce the risk of complications could actually be less expensive than the current approach.

The report quantifies the current costs of direct patient care for diabetes (which includes treatment, intervention and complications) and indirect costs of diabetes, such as those related to increased death and illness, work loss and the need for informal care, and also predicts the UK’s future costs of diabetes. According to the report, the total cost associated with diabetes in the UK currently stands at £23.7 billion and is predicted to rise to £39.8 billion by 2035/6.

"Unfolding public health disaster"

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "This report shows that without urgent action, the already huge sums of money being spent on treating diabetes will rise to unsustainable levels that threaten to bankrupt the NHS. But the most shocking part of this report is the finding that almost four fifths of NHS diabetes spending goes on treating complications that in many cases could have been prevented.

"The failure to do more to prevent these complications is both a tragedy for the people involved and a damning indictment of the failure to implement the clear and recommended solutions. Unless the Government and the NHS start to show real leadership on this issue, this unfolding public health disaster will only get worse."

Key findings

There are currently around 3.8 million people living with diabetes in the UK and, by 2035/6, this is expected to increase to 6.25 million.

The current situation

  • The current cost of direct patient care (which includes treatment, intervention and complications) for those living with diabetes is estimated at £9.8 billion
    • £1 billion for Type 1 diabetes and £8.8 billion for Type 2 diabetes
  • The current indirect costs associated with diabetes, such as those related to increased death and illness, work loss and the need for informal care, are estimated at £13.9 billion
    • £0.9 billion for Type 1 diabetes and £13 billion for Type 2 diabetes
  • Deaths from diabetes in 2010/11 resulted in over 325,000 lost working years

In addition to the above costs, it is estimated that there are 850,000 people in the UK who have diabetes but have not been diagnosed and, according to the study authors, the cost of undiagnosed diabetes can be estimated at an additional £1.5 billion.

The situation by 2035/6

  • By 2035/6, the cost of direct care for patients will rise to £16.9 billion
    • £1.8 billion for Type 1 diabetes and £15.1 billion for Type 2 diabetes
  • By 2035/6, indirect costs associated with diabetes will increase to approximately £22.9 billion
    • £2.4 billion for Type 1 diabetes and £20.5 billion for Type 2 diabetes

"Vast economic impact"

The JDRF welcomed the report for separately listing the costs of Type 1 diabetes, as the causes of Type 1 and the challenges it presents are very different to Type 2. They called for further medical research to relieve the vast economic impact on families, the NHS and the economy.

Sanofi Diabetes are planning to carry out further research examining the cost impact of adopting NICE guidelines across the UK, intended to highlight how investment in effective management could potentially reduce the overall cost burden of diabetes.