'24,000 unnecessary deaths from diabetes every year'
Wednesday 14 December 2011
Up to 24,000 people with diabetes are dying unnecessarily every year, according to a new report.
Most deaths could be avoided if they received better NHS care and if their condition was better managed, it said.
The report into death rates, from the National Diabetes Audit for England, found that women with diabetes are nine times more likely to die young than those without the condition.
Among women aged 15 to 34 with diabetes, death rates are up to nine times higher than the average for this age group.
And the report also found that two young people of both sexes aged 15 to 34 may be suffering an avoidable death every week.
An estimated 70,000 to 75,000 people with diabetes die in England every year - accounting for about 15% of all deaths.
Most deaths are related to the actual condition - diabetes can cause serious heart and kidney problems, as well as amputation of limbs and loss of eyesight.
Today's report said people are dying too early due to poor management of their condition.
This includes not receiving basic diabetic health checks on the NHS, having unhealthy lifestyles and not taking medication properly or understanding how to take it.
It argues that educating people in managing their condition reduces the risk that they will suffer dangerously high or low blood sugar, which increases the risk of complications but can also lead directly to death.
Today's audit included data for 2.5 million people.
It found that three-quarters of unnecessary deaths among diabetics are among the over-65s.
But the gap in death rates between people with diabetes and those without become more extreme in younger age groups.
About one in 3,300 of all women will die between the ages of 15 and 34, but this risk increases nine-fold among women with Type 1 diabetes to one in 360.
Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood and patients need to take insulin injections.
Among women with Type 2 diabetes - linked to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity - the risk increases six-fold to one in 520.
Men aged 15 to 34 in the general population have a risk of dying of one in 1,530, but this risk increases four-fold for those with Type 1 diabetes to one in 360, and by just under four-fold among those with Type 2 to one in 430.
Earlier this year the National Diabetes Audit found almost 450,000 children and younger adults (aged up to 54) with diabetes have high-risk blood sugar levels that could lead to severe complications.
The audit is managed by the NHS Information Centre and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP).
Today's report also found a strong link between deprivation and increased mortality rates.
Among under-65s with diabetes, those from deprived backgrounds are twice as likely to die as those from more affluent areas.
Audit lead clinician Dr Bob Young, consultant diabetologist and clinical lead for the National Diabetes Information Service, said: "For the first time we have a reliable measure of the huge impact of diabetes on early death.
"Many of these early deaths could be prevented. The rate of new diabetes is increasing every year.
"So, if there are no changes, the impact of diabetes on national mortality will increase.
"Doctors, nurses and the NHS working in partnership with people who have diabetes should be able to improve these grim statistics."
Diabetes UK has compiled a list of 15 essential health checks and services and there are nine checks recommended on the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).
These nine checks include blood sugar control, cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and eye and foot examinations to check for diabetic complications.
The National Diabetes Audit has found that only around half of people (53%) with Type 2 diabetes and less than a third (32%) with Type 1 diabetes receive all nine checks.
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "These figures are incredibly alarming as there is no reason why people with diabetes cannot live long and healthy lives if they receive the right care and support to help them manage their condition.
"Self-management is very important, but it is also vital that people with diabetes receive the care they need to help them manage their condition in the first place.
"We know that half of people with Type 2 and more than two thirds of people with Type 1 diabetes are not receiving the care they need to stay healthy, so it is imperative we take action now to stop even more lives being needlessly cut short."
Some 290,000 people in the UK have Type 1 diabetes and another 2.6 million are diagnosed with Type 2.
It is also estimated there are 850,000 other people with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
Care services minister Paul Burstow said: "We set up this audit to expose poor diabetes care.
"The audit has revealed shocking variation in care with devastating consequences for the lives of those with diabetes.
"This snapshot of NHS diabetes care reveals an unacceptable death toll, a death toll that can be cut by delivering the right care at the right time.
"Our plans to roll out telehealth to improve the lives of three million people will play an important part in helping those with diabetes manage their condition better.
"Armed with the results of this audit, I expect the NHS to learn from the best.
"It's not rocket science - integrated health care can help people manage their diabetes, stay well and out of hospital."
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