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Fighting the diabetes postcode lottery

Flash glucose monitor

Thousands of adults and children with diabetes are being denied a new life-changing technology that could help them to safely manage their condition.

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Many people with diabetes need to check their own blood glucose (sugar) levels. This is usually done with a finger-prick blood test, using a meter that says how much glucose there is in the blood at the time of the test. People with diabetes who use insulin often need to test many times a day.

In contrast, flash glucose monitoring (known as Flash) uses a small sensor that people wear on their skin that records blood sugar levels continuously, and can be read by scanning the sensor whenever needed. This device can free them from the pain of frequent finger-prick testing, making it easier to keep on top of blood sugar levels.

Crucially, because Flash helps people test more frequently, and gives them much more information, it in turn supports people to better manage their diabetes. This can then reduce the risk of serious diabetes complications, such as amputation, sight loss and stroke, as well as improving quality of life, and saving the NHS much-needed funds. That's why we're campaigning for better access to this life-changing technology - join our Flash campaign.

Better access to this life-changing technology

Even though in principle the device can be prescribed on the NHS since November 2017, its use is subject to approval by local health bodies. Currently, only Northern Ireland, Wales and two in five areas in England and one in three in Scotland have made it available to people who meet local criteria.

Local decision makers have decided against prescribing Flash in 52 areas in England, while thousands of people with diabetes are awaiting decisions by 38 clinical commissioning groups across England and 9 health boards in Scotland that are currently reviewing their policies. There is no information on availability or plans to review policies in 35 areas.

This means that people with diabetes face a postcode lottery to access technology that could help them manage their condition well. For instance, in Yorkshire, Flash is available in Sheffield but not available in the nearby city of Wakefield. The variation in care is similar across the UK, with Preston and Blackburn in Lancashire having a blanket ban and neighbouring Wigan and Manchester providing access to those who meet local criteria. In the Midlands, Birmingham is not offering access while Wolverhampton has made Flash available.

In the South East, the Crawley clinical commissioning group has decided against it, but people with diabetes living a few miles down the road in Brighton and Hove can get it for free on prescription. In the South West, Flash is offered in Somerset, while Dorset in its eastern borders has not given access. In London, most boroughs have agreed in principle to make Flash available and are currently finalising implementation plans.

We're now urgently calling on local health bosses to give access to the ground-breaking technology to those who can benefit, no matter where they live.

Helen Dickens, our Assistant Director of Campaigns and Mobilisation, says:

“People’s health should not depend on an unfair postcode lottery. Everyone should be able to access the care and treatments necessary to safely manage their condition.

Because Flash makes it easier to monitor and better manage blood sugar levels, it improves lives, can save money, and reduces the risk of serious diabetes complications such as amputations and blindness.

The NHS agreed to provide access in November, but people with diabetes have already been waiting for too long. Every area should now have a policy providing access to Flash for free on prescription, so that everyone who can benefit from it, will.”

Becca, a 24-year-old teacher from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, one of the areas not providing Flash, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes five years ago. Around 18 months ago she bought a Flash starter kit and has self-funded it ever since. Becca says using the device has not only helped her in the classroom, but also offers huge psychological benefits. She's disappointed that local decision makers in her area have not approved its use.

Becca says:

“Using flash technology has without a doubt changed my life. The psychological benefits are huge − not only has it helped to remove a lot of the anxiety that often comes with diabetes, but also helps me to avoid burnout.

I am committed to self-funding and every time I buy a new sensor it is a conscious and thought-out decision because of the cost. I have to make sacrifices elsewhere in order to afford it, but it's definitely worth it.

I teach 9 to 10-year-olds and it didn't feel appropriate to do finger-prick tests in front of them, which meant I didn’t check my blood glucose levels as often as I should have done. Flash has changed this and has made checking a lot more convenient.

No healthcare decision should be based on where you live. I think it's really disappointing that local health leaders have decided not to fund Flash. It has the power to changes lives and should be accessible to all.”

More than seven thousand people have backed our campaign for fair and equal access to flash glucose monitoring everywhere in the UK, and a third of areas already recognise the benefits of the technology and are prescribing it. Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, and INPUT the diabetes technology charity, are also supporting the campaign.

Join the fight for Flash

To find out if Flash is right for you, what you need to do to access it and how you can make the case for it to be made available in your local area, join our Flash campaign.

 

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