A ‘life-changing’ technology which can support people with diabetes to better manage their condition is unavailable to thousands across Scotland.
Following approval of Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring (Flash GM) on NHS drug tariff in November 2017, only six of the 14 Health Boards across Scotland are currently making the technology available to people living with diabetes. Diabetes Scotland is urging the eight remaining Health Boards, where the decision is under review, to follow suit and create fair and equal access across the country.
The diabetes community is eagerly awaiting the recommendations of the Scottish Health Technologies Group which meets on 25 June. Many Health Boards have expressed that they will be influenced by the guidance issued following this meeting. Diabetes Scotland is contributing to the evidence under review and seeking to ensure that the voices of people living with diabetes is heard; highlighting the numerous benefits experienced in improved self-management and quality of life.
Flash glucose monitoring has been described as ‘life-changing’ by people who have experience of using it. For people with Type 1 diabetes in particular, it reduces the need for frequent finger-prick blood tests, provides clearer understanding of a person’s blood glucose levels and trends, and improves quality of life.
For children and parents it can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and frequent disturbances for blood testing. Children also have a more positive experience at school without disruption to their lessons to check glucose levels.
Angela Mitchell, National Director of Diabetes Scotland, said:
“Following the exciting announcement that FreeStyle Libre would be made available to prescribe from 1 November 2017, many in the diabetes community in Scotland are frustrated at the current disparity of access.
“We want Health Boards to take a person-centred approach and think about the benefits this technology can bring to individuals. This is not simply a clinical decision but also a question of what is right for the person living with the condition. We know from people already using Flash GM that they feel a greater freedom and confidence to manage their condition well, reducing their risk of complications.”
Unlike in Northern Ireland, Wales and parts of England where people with Type 1 diabetes are getting free NHS prescriptions for the FreeStyle Libre - the only Flash GM device available at present – many people in Scotland with diabetes are facing an uncertain wait.
Diabetes Scotland is also concerned that Health Boards are not making the necessary preparations, including staff training, to enable them to prescribe Flash GM and support people to use it most effectively.
Diabetes is a serious condition which needs carefully managed every day. If people are not supported to manage their condition well, they risk long-term complications including blindness, cardiovascular disease, lower limb amputation and stroke.
Many people across Scotland have had to self-fund Flash GM but this is not an option for all and creates a worrying precedent of widening inequality.
Angela Mitchell said:
“The option to pay for this technology which can support people to better manage their diabetes is not open to everyone, nor should it be required. Our NHS was founded on the principle of creating a fair and equal health service for all, regardless of income. We should not be in a position where some people are less able to manage their diabetes because they can’t afford the device which may help them.
“While Flash GM will not be right for everyone, we want all those who can benefit to be given access through the NHS, with diabetes teams well-trained to be able to support them to get the best from the technology. We urge Health Boards to prepare now, devise the pathways to ensure an efficient process of prescribing, distributing and supporting people to use Flash GM, and inform people living with the condition what to expect and when.
“Diabetes is a relentless condition. We must do all we can to ensure that people are given every opportunity to live healthy and happy lives.”
More than 7,000 people across the UK have backed the Diabetes UK campaign for fair and equal access to Flash Glucose Monitoring everywhere in the UK. Fellow diabetes charities JDRF and INPUT, and Scottish patient campaigning group IPAG/Scottish FreeStyle Libre Equalities Group are also supporting the campaign.
Find out more about flash glucose monitoring or support Diabetes Scotland’s campaign work to ensure that everyone who can benefit from this technology can get access.