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Huge regional variation in patients having diabetes care checks

Diabetes patients are up to four times more likely to have all their essential care checks depending on where they live in England and Wales, figures released today reveal.

Although the National Diabetes Audit report on care processes show that rates have improved, 36 Primary Care Trust (PCT) areas in England recorded fewer than half of their patients as having had all their annual GP checks.

Healthcare checks

In one PCT, only 11 per cent of patients received all nine checks, which include assessment of blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and foot health. In contrast, one PCT reported 71 per cent of patients receiving all their checks.

In Welsh local health boards, the percentage varied between 51 and 65 per cent.

The report also shows that younger patients (counted as those below the age of 55) are less likely to have all of the checks compared to older patients.

"Missed opportunity"

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "The percentage of people getting their basic checks and services may be going up, but the increase is much too slow. The last year has been a missed opportunity to give people the care they need.

"In particular, it is appalling that there are 36 PCT areas where fewer than half of people with diabetes have had their annual health checks.

Vital basic checks

"These basic checks are vital in highlighting potential complications; the consequences if people don’t receive them can be dire. The National Audit Office has already made it clear that diabetes healthcare is inadequate, especially given the large costs involved.

"We now need to see real action to ensure that the percentage of people with diabetes getting their checks and services starts to rise at the kind of rate that finally reflects the urgency of the problem."

Worrying difference between diabetes types

Diabetes UK are particularly concerned about the fact that people with Type 1 diabetes are much less likely to get their care processes than people with Type 2.

Barbara Young added, "The fact that only 38.5 per cent of people with Type 1 diabetes in England and Wales are receiving all nine care processes is highly disturbing.

"We do not fully understand why this is the case, but it is likely to be because of lack of clarity about whether they should be offered their care processes by hospitals or GPs. Also, people with Type 1 tend to be younger: young people are often more likely to move around a lot, so services need to be better designed to be more easily accessible for these people.

"Urgent improvements needed"

"Urgent improvements are needed to services for people with Type 1 diabetes, as it is extremely worrying that people with Type 1 are less likely to achieve their treatment targets for glucose control and blood pressure control. When this is combined with the fact that people with Type 1 generally develop diabetes much earlier in life than people with Type 2, this means they are more likely to develop devastating health complications.

"The fact that some PCTs are doing much better than others shows that the kind of improvements that could lead to better health outcomes for people with Type 1 are achievable."

Full report

The report is managed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre in partnership with Diabetes UK and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership. It looked at care processes recorded by 83 per cent of GP practices in England and 49 per cent of practices in Wales between January 2010 and March 2011.

Access the full report on the NHS Information Centre website.

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