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Diabetes UK Cymru demands Welsh Government action as pandemic hits diabetes care hard

The coronavirus pandemic has lit the fuse of a care ‘timebomb’ for people with diabetes, Diabetes UK Cymru has warned today. The wide-reaching impacts of the pandemic on how diabetes care is delivered are worsening a rapidly growing health crisis.

  • Figures show 40% of people with diabetes in Wales had consultations cancelled that have still not taken place
  • One in three have not had contact with their diabetes team since the start of the pandemic
  • Over half of people in Wales have had difficulties managing their diabetes during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Diabetes UK Cymru is calling for urgent government investment and prioritisation of diabetes to address inequalities

We're launching a new report and campaign today, ‘Diabetes Is Serious’, calling on the Welsh Government to invest in diabetes care and services.

The campaign comes as figures show a worrying drop in the number of people with diabetes receiving the eight recommended care processes. These are essential to reducing the risk of serious diabetes complications such as sight loss, heart disease, kidney disease, foot problems (which can lead to amputation), and poor pregnancy outcomes.

We're warning that there are also thousands of likely missed or delayed diagnoses of type 2 diabetes. We estimate that there are now more than 65,000 people living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes in Wales.

This drop in the standard of care is reflected in a recent survey of more than 200 people living with diabetes, which we carried out in August 2021. The survey showed that:  

 

  • 40% of people had consultations cancelled that have still not taken place,
  • One in three have not had contact with their diabetes team since the start of the pandemic in Spring 2020.
  • Over half of people with diabetes said that they had difficulties managing their diabetes during the pandemic. Almost 10% more people in Wales have reported difficulties than people in England.

Read the full report here

35% of survey respondents said they had experienced poor mental health during the pandemic because of their diabetes. They felt they had not had sufficient access to emotional and psychological support.

Diabetes UK Cymru recognises the incredible work of NHS Wales over the last 18 months to keep us all safe and well. There have been many strides forward in diabetes care and prevention in recent years.

Healthcare professionals have been working tirelessly through the pandemic. These findings reveal, however, the extent to which diabetes services have been hit by the pandemic.

People with diabetes have been one of the groups most affected by coronavirus. Devastatingly, people living with the condition accounted for one in four deaths from coronavirus in Wales throughout the pandemic.

 

David Chaney, Assistant Director for Local Impact at Diabetes UK said:

 

“Diabetes is serious. People with the condition have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop COVID-19, as it is. Routine appointments are essential for identifying the early signs of complications and for keeping self-management on track. Missed appointments and missed diagnoses can devastate lives.

 

We’re asking that the Welsh Government prioritises the recovery and delivery of routine diabetes care services and catch-up on the backlog of appointments caused by the pandemic. We’re also urging the government to address inequalities in diabetes care in deprived communities and ethnic minority groups. Investment in prevention, access to technology and psychological support also needs to increase if we want to defuse the diabetes timebomb, one the fastest growing health crisis in Wales and UK-wide.”

 

Diabetes on the backburner

More than 200 people responded to the Diabetes UK Cymru survey, and many gave us an account of how they felt about their care during the pandemic

Karen Taylor, 67, one of our survey respondents living in North Wales, said:

Care was almost non-existent.  I have had to call the hospital and request a blood test check-up, received no feedback, called to request blood results and was put on a list. Received copy of a letter to my GP today, off my consultant, giving incorrect dosage of insulin. My GP surgery has no diabetes nurse who deals with insulin. It just feels nobody is helping you.”

 

Sian Fisher, 27, is a primary school teacher from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, and lives with type 1 diabetes. She told us she noticed a big difference in her care since Covid-19 hit Britain in Spring 2020. She said:

“I understand that the NHS is busy and staff are doing their best. However, when you live with a long-term condition like diabetes it’s important to have face to face support.

That has changed. I haven’t seen my doctor for almost two years. I only had a very short telephone call with a consultant. I think there should be more Covid testing and face to face support for people with diabetes to ensure that the condition is managed properly.”

Only half of people surveyed in Wales said they were using some form of diabetes technology. These devices and apps can help people monitor their blood sugars. They can also help you to administer insulin in a more consistent and efficient way.

90% of people who use diabetes technology in Wales agree it helped them to manage their condition during the pandemic, particularly reducing stress. Almost half also found that technology helped with remote consultation.

Why we are saying Diabetes is serious and costly?         

There are an estimated 209,015 people living with diabetes in Wales. That’s 1 in 13 and represents the highest proportion in the UK (8%).

Diabetes requires constant self-management, but people with diabetes are also entitled to important health checks, tests, services, and support from healthcare professionals to get the care they need to reduce the risk of devastating complications. Diabetes care costs the NHS in Wales 10% of its annual budget, that’s £950 a minute.

Diabetes UK Cymru is now asking Members of the Senedd on Diabetes Awareness Month and beyond to improve the lives of those living with and at risk of diabetes.

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