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Record rates of stroke and kidney failure in people with diabetes

Monday 26 March 2012

Rates of stroke and kidney failure in people with diabetes have reached record levels in England, according to a new analysis by Diabetes UK.

The analysis suggests that for stroke and kidney failure – both complications of diabetes – the rates among those people registered in the National Diabetes Audit (NDA) were higher in 2009/10 than in any year since the NDA began recording them in 2003.

Record levels reached

The NDA figures show a 57 per cent rise in strokes in people with diabetes since 2006/07. Taking the NDA figures as being representative of the rate across England means that more than 16,000 people with diabetes had a stroke in 2009/10.

For kidney failure, the rate is 31 per cent higher than in 2006/07. If the NDA rate were reflected across the country, this would mean more than 8,800 people with diabetes had kidney failure in 2009/10.

The fact that these rates have reached record levels highlights the importance of people with diabetes having their blood pressure and kidney function checked every year.

We recently ran a survey showing that almost a quarter (22 per cent) of people with diabetes were unaware of having had their kidney function checked in the previous year, while seven per cent had not had their blood pressure checked. We want every person with diabetes to have these checks, as well as all the checks and services set out in the 15 healthcare essentials.

Effective risk reduction

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "It is shocking that rates of strokes and kidney failure in people with diabetes are now at record levels, and yet thousands of people are still not getting the health checks that can help prevent them.

"These figures are a reminder that all people with diabetes should have these checks every year, as this is the simplest and most effective way of reducing risk of complications such as stroke and kidney failure. We also need to get the message across to people with diabetes that they should demand these checks if they are not already getting them.

"Stroke and kidney failure are complications that hugely reduce quality of life for many people with diabetes, while the cost of treatment far exceeds that of the simple checks that can help prevent them developing in the first place. These appalling figures remind us once again of the lack of progress in this area and highlight the importance of applying pressure on the Government and the NHS to give everyone with diabetes the basic checks that can help bring the rise in potentially preventable complications to an end."

Our recommendations

We recommend that everyone with diabetes has their blood pressure measured and recorded at least once a year, as well as agreeing a personal blood pressure target with their healthcare professional. They should also have their kidney functions monitored annually with a urine test for protein, which can highlight kidney problems, and a blood test. A personal target should then be set to suit the person.