Thousands of British children with diabetes are denied access to a new life-changing treatment, MPs will be told tomorrow by leading doctors and medical charities.

Thousands of British children with diabetes are denied access to a new life-changing treatment, MPs will be told tomorrow by leading doctors and medical charities.

Only one in 100 child sufferers is able to access the new advanced treatment where insulin is provided through a pump and tube rather than by injection, even though the technology has been recommended by government advisors, and is widespread in the US.

The pumps can be programmed to give the right doses whenever the patient needs it and mean children with diabetes no longer need multiple daily injections.

About 300,000 people in the UK have type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition that impairs the body's ability to use food properly and leaves it with no insulin. New research shows that the condition is not properly controlled in almost nine out of 10 children with the condition, increasing the risk of long-term complications.

The pumps have a remote control that allows parents, especially those of younger children, to trigger the delivery of the right amounts of insulin at the right times.

Reliable treatment through the pump can help allay the onset of potentially devastating conditions, including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and strokes.

Despite backing for the technology in national guidelines from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice), a government body that advises on the most suitable medical treatments, MPs will be told there is a postcode lottery that determines which patients can get access to recommended pump therapy.

The calls for improvements will be made at a diabetes forum of the all-party parliamentary group for diabetes at the House of Commons tomorrow, with specialist health-care professionals and representatives from Diabetes UK, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Nice.

The Nice guidelines recommended two years ago, that the pump therapy be funded for many people with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes, yet there are still huge discrepancies in pump availability and specialist care across the country.

Young people with diabetes in America, Scandinavia and Europe are up to 40 times more likely to get the pump treatment than children in Britain.

Research shows that more than 60 per cent of all patients with a pump buy it themselves, and that a third of primary care organisations have no access to pump services.

"People in certain areas of the UK have been getting access to this technology, and others face an uphill battle because of an inequitable postcode lottery situation,'' says Peter Hindmarsh, professor of Paediatric Endocrinology at Great Ormond Street and University College London hospitals.

"You can markedly improve diabetes control with these pumps, and there is no doubt that in most patients you would see some improvement.

"There is quite a difference in use of pumps compared to other countries ... it is embarrassing at times going to meetings when you see colleagues in Scandinavia, for instance, where 30 to 40 per cent of children are on pumps compared to 1 per cent here.

"The pump is expensive to buy straight off, in that it costs some thousands of pounds, but what you achieve is better long-term control. In some patients, control is so much better you can reduce the risk of complications by 40 per cent.

"The money the NHS saves in not having to treat those complications is going to pay for the pumps.''

Comments