People with diabetes are being denied the opportunity to effectively monitor their blood glucose levels because their prescriptions for test strips are being restricted, according to a new survey by Diabetes UK.
Of about 1,300 people who answered a question about their access to test strips as part of the online survey, 46 per cent had had prescriptions refused or restricted within the last 12 months.
Of the respondents who said they had experienced restrictions 39 per cent were people with Type 1 diabetes, which Diabetes UK has described as “alarming” because everyone with Type 1 needs to use test strips every day. It also suggested that 51 per cent of respondents with Type 2 diabetes are having access to the strips restricted.
This is a problem because people who treat their diabetes with insulin or other blood glucose lowering medication need to know their blood glucose level so they can work out how much medication to take.
Failure to monitor blood glucose levels effectively can cause blood glucose levels going either too high or too low, both of which are potentially fatal. In the long-term, poorly managed blood glucose levels can lead to serious complications such as blindness, amputations and stroke.People who use insulin or other blood glucose lowering medication re also required by the DVLA to test their blood glucose within two hours of driving a car and every two hours while driving. Lack of access to test strips means that people with diabetes are effectively being prevented from driving.
While the people who took part in the survey may not be representative of people with diabetes generally, Diabetes UK has warned that it shows that GPs restricting test strips is a significant issue. This is despite the fact that the Department of Health has previously written to all GPs to remind them that people with Type 1 diabetes should not have their access to the strips restricted. The charity says the new survey shows it is still an issue and it is calling on NHS England to make sure that everyone with diabetes gets the test strips they need from their GP.
This is causing enormous distress and anxiety
Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: “For people who use insulin, test strips are a vital part of the ongoing management of their condition and it is simply unacceptable that people are being denied them. None of us would drive a car that didn’t have a speedometer, so it is appalling that people with diabetes are being asked to manage their blood glucose level at the same time as being denied the basic tools to do this safely. This is causing enormous distress and anxiety, as lack of access to test strips can put people’s health at risk and also places huge restrictions on their life.
"Restricting access to strips on cost grounds is wrong"
“As well as having a big effect on people’s day-to-day lives, not being able to effectively manage their blood glucose level is putting people at increased risk of long-term complications such as blindness and kidney failure. The really frustrating part of this is that GPs seem to be restricting access to strips to save money, but any short term savings from doing this will be tiny compared to the long-term cost to the NHS of treating these complications.“We need to send an urgent message to NHS England that GPs restricting access to strips on cost grounds is wrong-headed, short-sighted and unfair. It has to stop