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Failure to test for diabetes puts lives at risk in Scotland

Healthcare professionals are missing opportunities to identify undiagnosed diabetes. A report out today shows that as a consequence thousands of people in Scotland are developing serious and at times life-threatening complications before finally being diagnosed.

The report, ‘Diabetes: State of the Nations 2006’, looks at diabetes care across the four nations of the UK and enables a comparison in the performance of the NHS in each country between 2005 and 2006.

One of the key findings shows that less than a quarter of people were diagnosed in response to the specific symptoms of diabetes. Most were diagnosed as the result of a healthcare professional making a judgement about the value of testing an individual patient. This demonstrates the importance of opportunistic testing for diabetes, especially within high-risk groups.

“Healthcare professionals who see people at risk every day are not making the most of the opportunities they have to identify people with undiagnosed diabetes and inform them about reducing risk," said Audrey Birt, Director of Diabetes UK Scotland.

"It is clear from this report that testing at-risk patients without waiting for diabetes symptoms to appear can have a huge impact on finding the tens of thousands of people in Scotland who have diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed.

"Early diagnosis reduces the chance of patients developing serious complications such as heart disease or visual impairment.

“We are particularly concerned that the percentage of people in Scotland diagnosed because of another condition or problem is significantly lower than the UK average and in fact fell between 2005 and 2006. This needs to be remedied. All four nations in the UK are waiting for UK guidance on screening, which will be the foundation of a long-term approach to the problem.

"However, in the short term and on a day-to-day basis, much more needs to be done by the health service in Scotland to ensure that people with diabetes are diagnosed as early as possible.”

The State of the Nations report also shows that there has been improvement in a number of areas of diabetes care, including retinal screening and patient education.

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