MPs call for action to improve diabetes care

22 Jan 16

The Public Accounts Committee has today criticised the Department of Health and NHS England for prevailing weaknesses and inconsistencies in diabetes services.

As the number of people suffering from diabetes increases, the PAC said that significant action is needed to combat the condition otherwise “the cost of diabetes to the NHS will continue to rise”.

Committee chair Meg Hillier said the DoH and NHS England had been “too slow in tackling diabetes, both in prevention and treatment”.

She added: “The number of people with diabetes is increasing, as is the number of patients who develop complications. It is a very serious condition that can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Yet support available to patients and those at risk varies hugely across the country.”

MPs said there remain “unacceptable variations” in areas including delivery of recommended care processes, achievement of treatment standards, and in outcomes for diabetes patients across the country.

The report found said the percentage of people achieving the three treatment standards for blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol level assessments in 2012/13 ranged from 28-48%. Additional risk of death among people with diabetes within a one-year follow up period ranged from 10-65%.

As well as these geographical variations, demographic grouping can also impact the experience of patients. Younger people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes receive fewer of the recommended care processes and are less likely to achieve the three treatment standards, the PAC highlighted.

The cost of complications accounts for over two-thirds of the £5.6bn a year that diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS.

In order to control these costs, the Management of adult diabetes services in the NHS: progress review said significant action to be taken to improve prevention and treatment for diabetes patients. This should include rapid action to improve the spread of best practice through identifying poorly-performing clinical commissioning groups. Intervention plans to help them improve should be in place by April, while there should also be clarification of existing diabetes targets.

“There’s clear evidence of what works and as a priority action must be taken to ensure best practice treatment and education is adopted across the board,” Hillier added.

“Taxpayers must have the confidence that support is available when and where they need it, rather than by virtue of where they live.”

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “NHS diabetes care is better than ever, as even the committee themselves state when they report that ‘individual diabetes patients’ prospects are getting better’.

“But a fundamental challenge which the committee implicitly draw attention to is the obesity-fuelled jump in type 2 diabetes. This threatens to overwhelm GP services, and puts the spotlight firmly on the need for no-holds barred national action on prevention by the NHS, government, employers, schools and in particular the food industry.”

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