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Number of people diagnosed with diabetes reaches 3.2 million

Monday 10 February 2014

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has increased to more than 3.2 million, according to figures released today by Diabetes UK.

The new figures, extracted from official NHS data, show that there were 3,208,014 adults with the condition in 2013, an increase of more than 163,000 compared to 2012.

This is the biggest increase in a single year since 2008 and it means six per cent of UK adults is now diagnosed with diabetes (this does not include the hundreds of thousands of people with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes).

The size of the increase may be partly explained by a change in methodology (the figure now includes people with rarer forms of diabetes as well as with Type 1 and Type 2), while some new cases may reflect improvements in diagnosis.

Sharp rise in diabetes not slowing down

But even taking this into account, the new figures demonstrate that the sharp rise in people with diabetes seen in the UK over the last decade shows no sign of slowing down.

As well as highlighting the need to do more to prevent Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for most of the increase and is closely linked to being overweight, Diabetes UK has warned that, with one in 17 people now diagnosed with the condition, the need to improve diabetes healthcare is now more urgent than ever.

The charity wants local NHS organisations to commit to:

  • Fully implementing the NHS Health Check (which should be offered to everyone aged 40 to 74) to help identify people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes. As well as the programme only being patchily introduced so far, the NHS needs to do more to ensure those at high risk are given effective lifestyle interventions to help prevent it. As well as being important for prevention, the NHS Health Check can help ensure that people with Type 2 are diagnosed as early as possible so they can start getting the support they need to manage it.
  • Ensuring everyone with diabetes is offered education on how to manage their condition. At the moment, just one in 10 people who are newly diagnosed are offered it, despite strong evidence education is a cost-effective way of giving people the knowledge they need to manage their condition.
  • Increasing the proportion of people with diabetes getting the nine annual checks recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). These checks help people manage their condition and identify any signs of complications early, but there is currently large geographical variation in the proportion of people getting them.
  • Urgently improving hospital care for people with diabetes. This is because too many hospital inpatients with diabetes experience medication errors and are not seen by a diabetes specialist team.
  • The NHS already spends 10 per cent of its entire budget on diabetes and 80 per cent of this goes on treating complications such as amputation, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.

Ongoing healthcare needed to prevent complications

According to Diabetes UK, the most effective way to stop diabetes spending increasing to unsustainable levels is to ensure people with diabetes get the ongoing healthcare that can help prevent complications.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, “The big increase in the number of people with diabetes confirms that we are in the middle of an unfolding public health disaster that demands urgent action and it is frightening to think that one in 17 people you walk past in the street has been diagnosed with the condition.

“Firstly, we need more focus on preventing Type 2 diabetes, as this is the only way we can bring the rapid rise in diabetes cases under control. This means properly implementing the NHS Health Check so we can identify more people at high risk and then making sure they get the support they need to reduce that risk.

We also need to address the obesity crisis, which is what is fuelling the increase in Type 2, by making healthy food cheaper and more accessible and by making it easier for people to build physical activity into their daily lives.

“But as well as doing more to prevent Type 2, we need to get much better at treating diabetes because the level of priority the NHS gives the condition does not reflect the size of the shadow it is casting over our nation’s health.

The result is that while diabetes is hugely expensive, accounting for 10p of every pound the NHS spends, what we are getting in return for that money is healthcare that is patchy and inconsistent.

Fuelling rates of diabetes-related complications

“While some areas do provide excellent care, this is not happening often enough, From access to education when people are diagnosed right the way through to the care they receive in hospital, there are too many people getting a raw deal and this is fuelling high rates of diabetes-related complications and early death.

“The complications of diabetes are not only devastating for the people involved, but they are also very expensive to treat.

Urgent need to focus on ongoing care

"With the number of people with diabetes continuing to rise, there is now an urgent need to grasp the nettle and start focusing on the ongoing care and support for self-management that can help prevent complications happening in the first place.

Unless we do this, we are likely to see more people having to endure complications and an accompanying rise in diabetes spending that we will simply not be able to afford.”