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Missing Million: perceptions and reality of diabetes today

The Missing Million Report: Perceptions and reality of diabetes today published by Diabetes UK is the most comprehensive report published to date which compares current public awareness of diabetes and its effects with the reality of diabetes care and treatment across the UK today.Michael Barry, TV cook and food writer who has written the foreword for the report writes: "This report reveals just how urgent the situation is. Even though I had diabetes for a long time before being diagnosed, unlike many people who are diagnosed late, I had not yet developed any serious complications. Early diagnosis and following a healthy lifestyle are essential to avoid developing lower-limb amputation, blindness and potentially fatal complications such as heart disease, stroke and kidney damage."Don't wait to find out is the best advice I can give, then it won't ruin your life either."

Report findings

Key findings from the report include:: Public understanding of diabetes and its impact is poor, with four out of five people believing the myth that some people get a milder form of diabetes than others

:  All types of diabetes are serious progressive conditions with potentially devastating complications.: Three quarters (76 per cent) of those in high risk groups are unaware of their risk of developing the condition.

: Those most at risk of developing diabetes are defined as those with two or more of the following characteristics: aged over 40, a family history of the condition, from ethnic minorities and overweight.: Less than half (46 per cent) of the public know that death can result from diabetes.

If not diagnosed early or managed properly diabetes can lead to lower-limb amputation, blindness, and potentially fatal complications including heart disease, stroke and kidney damage.: Only one quarter of the population know that diabetes can lead to heart disease despite the fact that it significantly increases the risk.

: Diabetes causes a two to three fold increased risk of coronary heart disease in men and four to five fold increased risk in pre-menopausal women.: 41 per cent of NHS money spent on Type 2 diabetes is spent on hospital in-patient care, treating the complications of diabetes which in many cases are preventable.

Report recommendations

Diabetes UK,  which is the new name for the British Diabetic Association, is demanding the following urgent action to address both the problems in the provision of care for people with diabetes and the causes of these problems:Government should:

  • Recognise and respond to the seriousness of this growing health challenge and ensure high and consistent standards of care are available for all people with diabetes.
  • Invest in raising awareness of diabetes among the public, including lifestyle factors and the symptoms of diabetes, especially for those in high risk groups.

Health services should:

  • Focus on early identification of people with diabetes and address the current gaps in the care provided to people with diabetes.
  • Ensure that people with diabetes receive the most effective treatment to prevent the onset of complications.
  • Make diabetes a priority area for strategic review and inclusion in health improvement programmes and plans.

People at risk from diabetes should:

  • Be aware of the importance of maintaining good control of their diabetes.
  • Lose weight if overweight or obese, eat a low fat, high fibre diet, stop smoking if a smoker and take exercise.

Diabetes UK should:

  • Promote awareness of symptoms and lifestyle factors associated with diabetes, especially for those in high-risk groups.
  • Liaise with government and healthcare professionals to ensure that high and consistent standards of care are available for all people with diabetes regardless of who they are and where they live.

Background facts

  • There are currently around 1.4 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes.
  • It is estimated that up to one million people in the UK are living, undiagnosed, with diabetes.
  • Diabetes and its complications accounts for almost a tenth of all NHS spending ? or £4.9 billion.
  • If not effectively treated, diabetes can lead to lower-limb amputation, blindness and potentially fatal complications such as heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
  • Those most at risk of developing diabetes are defined as those with two or more of the following characteristics: aged over 40, a family history of the condition, from ethnic minorities and overweight.
  • Around half of people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes already have the early signs of complications.
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