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What do Jeremy Hunt's new "Ofsted-style" proposals mean for people with diabetes?

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Jeremy Hunt has Jeremy Hunt has outlined new measures to encourage greater patient power and accountability in the NHS. Diabetes UK's Chief Executive, Chris Askew, looks at how the proposals will affect people with diabetes.

"The Health Secretary Jeremy Huntoutlined radical new measureswhich will give patients greater understanding of how their local NHS services are performing. This includes new “Ofsted-style” ratings, which would mean that, for the first time ever, patients in England will be able to check how their local area is performing in the delivery of key services, including diabetes, mental health, dementia and cancer. 

"This is a big step towards greater accountability, and patient power, and so is really good news for people with diabetes. 

"This is because all too often healthcare for people with diabetes simply isn’t good enough and is marked by significant levels of variation. It is not just us saying this: it was the conclusion of last week’s report by the National Audit Office (NAO) and is a situation that clearly needs to change. 

"As the NAO highlighted, four out of ten  people with diabetes are not getting the eight recommended annual checks that can identify and spot problems early enough to do something about them and only a third of people with diabetes are meeting the recommended treatment targets for blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure."Too many children and young people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes receive poor care, as evidenced by the variation in care locally. In 2012-13, only 12 per cent of young people aged between 12 and 19 had all their annual care checks and are even less likely to have their condition under control. "These figures are a huge concern, as poorly controlled diabetes significantly increases risk of debilitating and life threatening complications such as heart attack, amputation and stroke. As well as the human cost, these complications are also extremely costly to the health service. The NHS spends £10 billion a year on diabetes, and the vast majority of this is spent on managing potentially avoidable complications. Unless we get better at supporting people with diabetes to stay healthy these figures threaten to rise to unsustainable levels."By publically naming those areas that are not providing as good care as elsewhere, the theory is that poor performing areas will be held to greater account and so standards will be driven up. We agree this is what needed – indeed, it is something we have been calling for – and we look forward to getting more information from the Department of Health about exactly how these new proposals will work in practice. "But while these proposals are a great start, they are only a start and we shouldn’t be tempted to see them as a solution to the problems we are seeing in diabetes care generally. "Another big issue, for example, is the provision of diabetes education courses and we will be launching a new campaign on this next month. What we need is the NHS to get better at educating people with diabetes to manage their condition well. People with diabetes have to manage their condition every single day of their lives and they may only see their healthcare professional a few times a year."Evidence shows that giving people the knowledge and skills to manage their diabetes effectively, through a diabetes education course, leads to improvements in their control of the condition and therefore reduce their long-term risk of complications. However, at the moment for individuals newly diagnosed with diabetes, less than 1 per cent of people with Type 1 and just 3.8 per cent with Type 2 attend a diabetes education course. The NHS must ensure that everyone with diabetes is given the opportunity to attend a diabetes education course."We need improvement in other areas also: better footcare services and more diabetes specialist nurses, for example. Clearly, providing the best care and support we can for people with diabetes is a big and complicated task. But with 3.9 million people with diabetes in the UK, it is clearly a task we need to succeed in."

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