An economic study has calculated the costs and savings involved in delivering the ground-breaking DiRECT programme through the NHS.
The findings of the study suggest that remission could save the health service money if remission programmes were to become available.
Researchers found that the remission plan would cost the NHS around £1,067 per patient in its first year – or £2,564 for each person who successfully goes into remission.
The team compared the treatment costs of the two groups in DiRECT, split by those on the weight loss programme, and those who get the NHS care that is currently available.
Considering factors, like the cost of healthcare professional training and providing the low-calorie formula diet, they found that the 12-month programme would cost £1,067 for each patient.
By the end of the first 12 months of the DiRECT study, 46% of those taking part were in remission. Using this figure, the team estimated that each case of successful remission would cost the NHS £2,564.
Looking at the long term
The DiRECT trial is led by Professors Mike Lean at University of Glasgow and Roy Taylor at Newcastle University (pictured above)
Professor Andrew Briggs, Health Economist at the University of Glasgow, explains:
“This intervention is relatively inexpensive when compared to managing type 2 diabetes, and we anticipate that there will be cost-savings further down the line. If people can stay in remission, and therefore reduce their chances of developing diabetes complications, the cost savings to the NHS could be substantial.
“We can’t know this for certain yet. Which is why the long-term follow-up of the participants – alongside those accessing any NHS remission pilots in the near future – is very important. However, these findings are encouraging, and – in our view – begin to make the case for shifting resources to offer remission-based models of care for people with type 2 diabetes in the future.”
Given the huge international interest in the first-year results of DiRECT, our team wanted to understand the cost impact of a remission programme to the NHS if they were to make it part of their standard care.
Remission pilots for the NHS
The Scottish government's A Healthier Future plan has promised £42 million to the prevention, early detection and early intervention of type 2 diabetes. NHS Boards around Scotland will be able use this funding to deliver programmes to prevent type 2 diabetes and to put it into remission.
NHS England also recently committed to piloting a remission programme for 5,000 people with type 2 diabetes in 2019, which we welcomed.
To date, we have committed £2.8 million to DiRECT.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson is Director of Research at Diabetes UK. She said:
“If people can remain in remission, and therefore reduce their risk of developing serious diabetes-related complications in the future, the cost savings to the NHS could be significant.
"Costs aside, remission from type 2 – and the possibility of living free of the condition – has to be the preferred option for people and clinicians alike.”