Diabetes care patchy and inadequate, says watchdog

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The care provided to people with diabetes is patchy, inadequate and is putting the health of many at risk, says a report by a government watchdog out today.

The care provided to people with diabetes is patchy, inadequate and is putting the health of many at risk, says a report by a government watchdog out today.

Diabetes is one of the commonest serious diseases affecting more than one million people, but patients may spend years before being diagnosed, with long waits for consultant clinics. Sufferers are also given inadequate information about how to manage the illness.

At least £2bn a year is spent on hospital care for diabetics but many of the complications of the illness are preventable with good care and support, says the report by the Audit Commission. Diabetes is the single biggest cause of blindness and the commonest cause of amputations of the foot and leg. Men with diabetes have three times the risk of developing heart disease, and women five times, compared with the population.

The commission says the number of sufferers will double over the next decade with the ageing of the population and the growth of obesity, with which diabetes is linked. It says better routine care must be provided by family doctors outside hospital to free specialist diabetes teams for the difficult cases and to support GPs.

A survey of 1,400 patients found one-third were dissatisfied with waiting times for consultants which could be up to 14 weeks, the education of patients was inadequate at half the hospitals visited and half of health authorities failed to screen all patients for complications such as blindness.

The report says that with careful monitoring and good control the risk of kidney damage and strokes can be cut by one-third, blindness can be cut by half and foot amputations caused by circulatory failure can be reduced by two-thirds.

Andrew Foster, controller of the commission, said: "Patients are not getting access to the high-quality service they deserve."

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