Many adults and children with diabetes in the Midlands 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.
Only Dudley and Wolverhampton clinical commissioning groups (CCG) in the West Midlands are currently making the technology available. Decision makers in Birmingham, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire have decided against prescribing Flash.
In other areas such as Staffordshire and Warwickshire, there is either no information available or the policy is under review. But many CCGs across the East Midlands, including those in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire, are prescribing.
This means that people with diabetes in the Midlands 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, 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.
We are 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 Midlands 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 many people with diabetes across the Midlands 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.”
Anthony Bates (pictured) lives in Leicestershire and has lived with Type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years.
Anthony said: "I am amazed that the region I live in has refused to support this latest technology, the cost benefit in cost terms for longer improved control will outweigh the initial costs.
“I have friends that are Type 1 diabetics who live less than four miles from me and use the technology and it has improved their control by a massive amount. It was the same discussion when the first insulin pumps became available, now everybody uses them, the decision makers are just looking at baseline initial costs not the longer term impact on the NHS which is already on its knees."
“I am so frustrated when all I want is to increase my control and enjoy my life.”
More than seven thousand people have backed our 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 a case for it to be made available in your local area, go to our flash page.