Diabetes – the time for action is now

Diabetes UK and a number of senior health professionals, including Dr John Newell-Price, chair of the Royal College of Physicians’ Joint Specialty Committee for Endocrinology and Diabetes, have written to the Times ahead of today's Public Accounts Committee hearing on the National Audit Office report on diabetes healthcare:

Sir, The Public Accounts Committee will today hold a hearing on the National Audit Office report on diabetes healthcare which concluded that the NHS is failing people with the condition. In this country 3.8 million people have diabetes and 7 million are at medium to high risk of developing it, and the numbers continue to rise.

If diagnosed late or not properly managed, diabetes has serious consequences. It is the biggest cause of blindness, stroke, amputation and end-stage kidney failure. It is a killer, and 24,000 people die prematurely every year as a result of diabetes.

Diabetes now consumes 10 per cent of the NHS budget and one in five people in a hospital bed has diabetes. But 80 per cent of that £10 billion is spent on avoidable complications rather than on early diagnosis, patient education and preventing avoidable complications developing.

This is rapidly becoming the biggest health challenge of our time. Almost everyone agrees what needs to be done. What is lacking is leadership.

Targeted and comprehensive action has been taken to tackle cancers, heart disease, stroke and dementia, and it has produced results. Inexplicably, diabetes has not been tackled like this.

The National Audit Office report is rightly critical of the lack of grip on this rising challenge. The time for action is now. We call on government and the emerging NHS Commissioning Board to show how it will ensure that early diagnosis, patient education and the right services can be assured across the country to stem the rise of diabetes and its complications and stem the human heartache and the financial impact that threatens the very future of the NHS.

Signed:

  • Professor Sir George Alberti, chairman, Diabetes UK
  • Dr Clare Gerada, chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
  • Dr Martin Hadley-Brown, chair, Primary Care Diabetes Society
  • Dr John Newell-Price, chair, Royal College of Physicians’ Joint Specialty Committee for Endocrinology and Diabetes
  • Dr Chris Walton, chair, Association of British Clinical Diabetologists
  • Professor John Wass, professor of endocrinology, Oxford
  • Baroness Young, chief executive, Diabetes UK

Download the National Audit Office report, The management of adult diabetes services in the NHS

Visit the Public Accounts Committee pages of the parliament.uk website