Thousands of people with Type 2 diabetes in England are missing out on being diagnosed because of the failure to properly implement the NHS Health Check programme, according to a new report by Diabetes UK.
During the last financial year, less than half (40 per cent) of people who could have benefitted from an NHS Health Check, which tests people aged 40 to 74 for risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, actually had one.
Let's Get It Right
According to the new report, called Let’s Get it Right, about 9,500 people with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes could have been diagnosed in 2011/12 if the programme had been properly implemented.
This missed opportunity has potentially devastating implications because early diagnosis reduces the risk of diabetes-related complications such as amputation, blindness, kidney failure and stroke. This is in addition to the many cases of Type 2 diabetes that could have been prevented through identifying people at high risk and giving them support to reduce their risk.
PCTs not carrying out checks
The report highlights that while the NHS Health Check is supposed to be given to all people in the target age group, in practice it has become a postcode lottery. During the last financial year, for example, there were three Primary Care Trust (PCT) areas where not a single person got a check. But in Liverpool and Greenwich, areas that face significant health challenges, thousands of people were checked during the same period.
We are calling for the Government to ensure the NHS Health Check is properly implemented, and are demanding a public awareness campaign so that people aged 40 to 74 know they are entitled to a check and understand how important it can be for future health.
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "The failure to deliver the NHS Health Check has potentially dire consequences for the state of diabetes care in this country. It is vital that people with Type 2 diabetes are diagnosed as early as possible to reduce their risk of developing complications. We are concerned that the estimated 9,500 people who missed being diagnosed last year are at increased risk of amputation, blindness, kidney failure and stroke.
"The NHS Health Check is also important for making people aware if they are at high risk and helping them get the information and support to encourage lifestyle changes to help prevent it.
"Put together, this means that the poor implementation of the NHS Health Check is a tragic failure. In particular, the fact that there are some places where not a single person has been offered a check is appalling.
"Turn back the tide of Type 2 diabetes"
"So while it is good news that the Government has made it mandatory to deliver the NHS Health Check, it now needs to go a step further by monitoring how well this is being done, and by holding poorly performing areas to account. This is the only way we can begin to turn back the rising tide of Type 2 diabetes and ensure that those who already have the condition are identified early enough to give them the best possible chance of living a long and healthy life.
"The alternative – watching idly as the human and financial costs of Type 2 diabetes continue to soar – is too awful to contemplate. The situation has reached crisis point and urgent action is needed now."
We are urging people aged 40 to 74 who have not had an NHS Health Check to contact their GP to ask for one.