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September 2021

Diabetes UK warns of ‘timebomb’ for diabetes care 

The coronavirus pandemic has lit the fuse of a care ‘timebomb’ for people with diabetes, leading charity Diabetes UK has warned.

The charity says the impacts of the pandemic on how diabetes care is delivered are causing a ‘rapidly growing health crisis’, with almost 2.5 million people in England with diabetes not getting all their recommended health checks, and 60,000 missed or delayed diagnoses of type 2 diabetes. 

There are an estimated 4.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK, and a further 13.6 million at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

But according to the National Diabetes Audit, between January and December 2020:

  • More than 2.25 million people with type 2 diabetes, and more than 200,000 people with type 1 diabetes, did not get all eight vital care processes in England.
  • The percentage of people with type 1 diabetes getting all eight care processes dropped by 37.5% compared with the same period in 2019.
  • The percentage of people with type 2 and other types of diabetes getting all eight care processes was down by 40.8% compared with the same period in 2019. 

These findings are reflected in a survey of almost 4,000 people with diabetes, carried out by Diabetes UK, which showed:  

  • One in three people had consultations cancelled that have still not taken place.
  • One in three said they had not had contact with their diabetes team since the start of the pandemic.
  • 45% of respondents reported having difficulties managing their diabetes during the pandemic, the majority of whom referred to lack of access to care and support by their diabetes healthcare team as the reason.

Diabetes UK recognises the incredible work of the NHS over the last 18 months, and that there have been many strides forward in diabetes care and prevention in recent years. But Chris Askew, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: ‘We’re sitting on a diabetes timebomb – a rapidly growing crisis for diabetes care – which is why we are urgently calling on the UK Government to put people living with diabetes at the heart of its post-pandemic health agenda.  

‘To meet this crisis head-on, government must make diabetes a priority and invest properly in fighting it.

‘Healthcare professionals are working incredibly hard to clear the backlog of missed and cancelled routine health checks, consultations and referrals and we are extremely grateful to them. But they are working with limited resources and missed appointments – and missed or delayed diagnoses – can devastate lives.’

Practice Nurse 2021;51(7): online only