Adults and children with diabetes in the East of England are being denied a new life-changing technology that could help them to safely manage their condition.
Many people with diabetes need to self-monitor their blood glucose levels. This is usually done with a finger prick blood test using a meter that indicates the blood glucose level at the time of the test. People with diabetes who use insulin often need to test many times a day.
In contrast, Flash Glucose Monitoring uses a small sensor that people wear on their skin that records blood sugar levels continuously, and can be read by scanning the sensor whenever needed. This device can free them from the pain of frequent finger-prick testing, making it easier to keep on top of blood sugar levels.
Crucially, because Flash helps people test more frequently, and gives them much more information, it in turn supports to improve control of the condition. This can then reduce the risk of serious diabetes-related complications, such as amputation, blindness and stroke, as well as improving quality of life, and saving the NHS much-needed funds.
Even though in principle the device can be prescribed on the NHS since November 2017, its use is subject to approval by local health bodies. Currently, only Northern Ireland, Wales and two in five areas in England and one in three in Scotland have made it available to people who meet local criteria.
Tabitha Tingey (pictured), 24, from Hertfordshire, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes six years ago and is campaigning for the technology to be made available in her area. She is struggling to afford the costs every month but says Flash has transformed her life.
"I implore the decision makers in my area to reconsider. The cost in the long term surely far exceeds the immediate cost? I often have to check my blood 10 times a day," said Tabitha.
None of the 19 clinical commissioning groups (CCG) in the East of England are currently making the technology available. Basildon and Brentwood CCG in Essex and Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG in Norfolk have both decided against prescribing Flash. In the other areas, there is either no information available or the policy is under review.
This means that people with diabetes face a postcode lottery to access technology that could help them manage their condition well.
Across the UK, local decision makers have decided against prescribing Flash in 52 areas in England, while thousands of people with diabetes are awaiting decisions by 38 clinical commissioning groups across England and nine health boards in Scotland that are currently reviewing their policies. There is no information on availability or plans to review policies in 35 areas.
Diabetes UK is urgently calling on local health bosses to give access to the ground-breaking technology to those who can benefit, no matter where they live.
Peter Shorrick, Diabetes UK East of England regional head, said:
“People’s health should not depend on an unfair postcode lottery. Everyone should be able to access the care and treatments necessary to safely manage their condition.
“Because Flash makes it easier to monitor and better control blood sugar levels, it improves lives, can save money, and reduces the risk of serious diabetes-related complications such as amputations and blindness.
“The NHS agreed to provide access in November, but people with diabetes in this region have already been waiting for too long. All CCGs should now have a policy providing access to Flash for free on prescription, so that everyone who can benefit from it, will.”
More than seven thousand people have backed the Diabetes UK campaign for fair and equal access to Flash glucose monitoring everywhere in the UK and a third of areas already recognise the benefits of the technology and are prescribing it. Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF and INPUT, the diabetes technology charity, are also supporting the campaign.
To find out if Flash is right for you, what you need to do to access it and how you can make the case for it to be made available in your local area, go to www.diabetes.org.uk/flash.