NHS leaders were held to account today (Monday 16 November) by members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and called on to defend their record of care for people living with diabetes in England.
Committee chair, Meg Hillier MP, reminded committee members that “it's not rocket science to tackle diabetes" and questioned why more wasn't being done to solve the national diabetes crisis and why there remains such a huge variation in care.
The PAC follows the publication of a criticalreport by a government watchdog on diabetes healthcare for adults in England which found there had been very little improvement in diabetes healthcare in the past three years, and warned that 22,000 people with diabetes were dying early each year from complications that could potentially have been avoided.
Health chiefs who faced the Committee included: Dame Una O'Brien, Permanent Secretary from the Department of Health; Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England; Jonathan Marron, Strategic Director of Public Health England; and Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Obesity and Diabetes at NHS England.
Jonathan Valabhji told the Committee that there had been huge improvements in standards of care over the past two decades and a significant reduction in the number of complications per individual, but conceded that the overall number of complications was significantly higher due to the soaring prevalence in diabetes.
Dame Una O'Brien referred to “serious and thorough” efforts to reduce variation in care and Simon Stevens explained that a new Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) score card, due to go live in April, will trigger intervention if CCGs fail to achieve required ratings for diabetes care in their areas.
Prevention of Type 2 diabetes was discussed and Jonathan Valabhji referred to the new National Diabetes Prevention Programme - a partnership between NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK - which is due to be rolled out in 2016 and will target those who are most at risk of developing diabetes. He also highlighted the NHS Health Checks which are offered to everyone aged 40 – 74. He said that both these initiatives “show that we have jumped in the space of trying to do something about the numbers."
Simon Stevens called for a particular focus on Type 1 diabetes support and education in light of the report showing outcomes for people with Type 1 diabetes to be worse than those for people with Type 2, due to it being harder for them to achieve their targets and likely they will live with the condition for far longer.
Robin Hewings, Head of Policy at Diabetes UK, said: "At the Public Accounts Committee today clear commitments were made to continuing to prioritise Type 2 diabetes prevention and also to best practice, knowledge and resources in diabetes care being shared across geographical areas to ensure the best outcomes for all people with diabetes. Meg Hillier is absolutely right that current variations in care are just too great. Key to addressing this issue is ensuring that interventions take place in any areas that fail to provide people with diabetes with the outcomes that they should expect and deserve.
Video of the Public Accounts Committee is available to view here -view it on the parliamentlive.tv website.