Diabetes technology has the potential to improve your life by helping you to manage your condition better. It isn’t for everyone, but for some people it can be life-changing.
In fact, our recent survey found that 67% of people who had used diabetes tech said they felt more confident managing their diabetes as a result.
That’s why we want to make sure that those who could benefit from diabetes tech know how to access it. This page will give you an overview of the technologies available in the UK, and show you where to find extra support if you need it.
Making the decision to start using diabetes tech can be tricky. You may feel overwhelmed by how it all works, or be worried about how your daily life could change.
That’s why we’ve created a guide to help you understand your feelings about diabetes tech. It’s important that you feel emotionally ready to use your new tech, and we want you to know we’re here if or when you need support.
How to get your diabetes tech
Before getting any type of diabetes tech, it is important to speak to your healthcare professional first. They will be able to advise on what technology will suit you best.
Not sure who to speak to?
If you aren’t sure who to speak to, here is how to get in touch with someone who can help you find out. If you live in:
Enter your postcode into the Clinical Commissioning Group finder on the NHS England website. It will list your local services and their contact details.
There are 7 Local Health Boards across Wales. Find out which Board covers your region on the NHS Wales website, along with more information and contact details.
There are 14 Health Boards covering all of Scotland. Find the full list and contact details on the NHS Scotland website.
In Northern Ireland, there is a Health and Social Care Board (HSC) and five Local Commissioning Groups (LCGs). Find your local group and their contact details.
Your next steps will then depend on the type of tech you want. In some instances, you may be able to get your tech prescribed free through the NHS, but you’ll have to meet their criteria in order to be eligible for this.
If you don’t meet the conditions set out by the NHS, you still have other options. You can make a case for why you think you would benefit from using the technology to your healthcare professional, CCG or health trust or board, or you may be able to apply for individual funding. We’ve got more advice about how to do this below.
You may also be able to buy your tech from a pharmacist or directly from the manufacturer, but there will be ongoing costs that you will need to carefully consider.
We know you may be looking for specific information about a particular type of tech, so our guidance below provides more detail on how to access flash glucose monitoring, continuous glucose monitoring, insulin pumps and test strips and monitors.
Flash glucose monitoring (Flash) should now be available on prescription to everyone in the UK who meets the NHS criteria. You will need to check the criteria that is relevant to you, as it differs across the UK.
If you aren’t able to get Flash on prescription, you may be able to find it in some pharmacies, or get it directly from Abbott, the manufacturer. But it’s important to speak with your healthcare professional first, as they’ll be able to check whether buying Flash is the best option for you.
Currently, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is not widely available on prescription through the NHS, and you’ll generally need to meet the strict criteria set out by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in order to be considered.
If you are only looking to use a CGM for a short period of one to two weeks, you may be able to borrow one from your healthcare clinic, depending on its availability.
If you want a long term CGM and don’t meet the criteria set out by NICE, you may want to look into buying one yourself. It can get expensive, so it’s important to check with your healthcare professional first to make sure it is right technology for you.
If you have type 1 diabetes, you may be able to get your insulin pump on prescription through the NHS. You will generally need to meet the criteria set out by NICE (or SIGN in Scotland), but criteria can sometimes differ across the UK.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you will not generally be able to get your insulin pump on prescription.
It is possible to buy your own pump, but when you take into account the extra parts you will need over the years, it can become costly. That’s why it’s best to discuss your options with your healthcare professional first.
If you find that you can’t get your tech in this way, you can still buy it from a pharmacy or online. Check our shop for more information about the products we sell.
We know it can be frustrating if you don’t meet the criteria set out by the NHS to access your tech. But there are steps you can take to try and change this.
Firstly, you can make your case to your healthcare professional, explaining how and why using diabetes tech will help you to manage your condition.
If you are still having issues after this, you can also write to or email your CCG, Health Trust or Board and outline why you should be provided with the tech you want.
We’ve got extra information about making a case for Flash below, but we recommend answering the questions below when making your case for any type of tech:
- Have you been self-funding your tech? If you have, then what did you notice about your diabetes management before, during and after using the device?
- What are the challenges you’re currently facing with your diabetes management?
- How do you think using the tech would help you with your blood sugar control?
- Do you test as often as you have been advised or would like to?
- Do you experience regular hypos and what are the effects of this on your day-to-day life?
- What about your lifestyle makes it hard to monitor your diabetes without tech?
- Do you struggle to perform finger prick tests regularly as part of your everyday routine?
- Do you work in an environment where it is difficult to perform finger prick tests regularly?
- Do you play sport and how would your tech benefit you?
If you want more advice on this, you can give our helpline a call. Our highly trained advisors will be able to support you through the process and talk you through the information you need.
Other information to help you make your case for Flash
Guidance has been produced by the Association of British Clinical Diabetologists to support people in trying to access Flash, including a letter to all diabetes teams and information to help make a case for Flash.
You could draw attention to this guidance if your decision maker or local diabetes team is not aware it exists.
Education and training
If you are considering using Flash, you may also benefit from going on a diabetes education course, as recommended by NICE.
When using Flash, it’s essential that you have the knowledge needed to make sure that you can use the information the system provides to improve management of your glucose levels. Even people who have been living with diabetes for 20 or more years tell us how life changing these educational courses can be.
You can ask your GP to refer you to a diabetes education programme. We also have more information about education courses.
Abbott, who supply the FreeStyle Libre, also provide free online learning for people with diabetes using the technology. There are nine ‘bite-size’ modules in total. They will introduce you to the system and help you get the most out of your data to manage your diabetes.
For access to CGM or insulin pumps, you may want to speak to your healthcare professional about submitting a request for individual funding. As this process varies across the UK, you will need to speak to your local commissioning group or health board to find out more about this option.
Everyone with diabetes should be able to get the tech they need to manage their condition, if they want it. But nearly 50% of those who have tried to get diabetes tech have been refused access at some page.
We know that the emotional impact of not being able to access the tech you want and need can be really difficult. That’s why we want you to know we are here for you.
Call our helpline
Please give our confidential helpline a call if you’re looking for more information, advice or just someone to chat to. Whether you’ve got specific questions about the different types of tech available, or just want talk through your options with someone, our highly trained advisors are ready to help.
Join our online forum
Head over to our online forum to join thousands of members talking about their experience with diabetes tech. You can ask questions, read conversations between existing members, or share your own knowledge and help others.
What we’re doing to improve access to tech
Improving access to diabetes tech has the potential to impact many millions of people with diabetes. That’s why our strategy over the next five years focuses on working towards a system where both existing diabetes tech, and the new innovations that become available, are accessible to all those who could benefit from their use.
Everyone should be able to get the tech they need to live well with diabetes, and we won’t rest until that happens.