Diabetes could 'bankrupt the NHS' after 60% rise in number of cases, charity warns

Number of those living with the condition has risen by 1.2 million in 10 years

An extra 1.2 million people have diabetes now than a decade ago, according to new figures – leading to a warning that its cost could “bankrupt the NHS”.

The number of those living with the  condition has soared by 59.8 per cent since 2005, meaning more than 3.3 million now have it.

Diabetes UK, the charity that uncovered the official figures, says the data shows the public health situation is being allowed out to spiral “out of control”.

The increase means that more than five per cent of the UK population now has the condition.

The charity says that more than a third of diabetes patients in England and Wales do not receive the eight care processes recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for preventing serious complications, such as amputations and strokes.

These checks include getting blood pressure and blood glucose measured, as well as kidney function monitored.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Over the past decade, the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has increased by over a million.

“With a record number of people now living with diabetes in the UK, there is no time to waste – the government must act now.

“We need to see more people with diabetes receiving the eight care processes recommended by Nice. It is unacceptable that a third of people living with the condition do not currently get these, putting them at increased risk of developing complications, such as amputations, heart attack or stroke.”

The figures, extracted from NHS data and analysed by the charity, show that the numbers suffering from the condition have risen by between 3.9 and 7.2 per cent every year since 2005.

Martin McShane, national medical director for long term conditions at NHS England, said: “These figures are a stark warning and reveal the increasing cost of diabetes to the NHS. Evidence is piling up that added sugar and excess calories are causing avoidable increases in obesity and diabetes.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, it’s time to get serious about lifestyle change. Prevention is better than treatment for individual health as well as the health of the NHS.”

As well as being a public health situation, poor management of the problem is creating an unnecessary financial burden for the NHS, according to Diabetes UK. “Diabetes already costs the NHS nearly £10bn a year, and 80 per cent of this is spent on managing avoidable complications,” Ms Young said.

“So there is huge potential to save money and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals and services through providing better care to prevent people with diabetes from developing devastating and costly complications.

“The NHS must prioritise providing better care, along with improved and more flexible education options, for people with diabetes now, and give them the best possible chance of living long and healthy lives.

“Until then, avoidable human suffering will continue and the costs of treating diabetes will continue to spiral out of control and threaten to bankrupt the NHS. Now is the time for action.”

By 2025, it is estimated that five million people will have diabetes in the UK. Effective prevention and management of the condition is necessary to prevent patient suffering and keep down the NHS bill.

Yet figures published last month revealed that the number of diabetes-related amputations has now reached a record high of 135 a week. This is despite the fact that with quality foot and diabetes care, up to 80 per cent of these amputations can be avoided.

Calculated using new Public Health England data, the figures show that the annual number of diabetes-related amputations in England is now more than 7,000, compared to the previous figure of 6,677.

Cost to NHS in England: £1m an hour

Prescriptions for diabetes now take up 10 per cent of GP practices’ annual prescribing budget in England. A total of 47.2 million items were prescribed in the last financial year, at a cost of £860m.

The sum marks an 8.2 per cent per cent rise in a year, the largest increase in spending on diabetes drugs since 2010/11. The rise in prevalence has been far outstripped by the rise in the proportion of budget spend.

The figures include drugs for type-1 and type-2, such as insulin, metformin and other anti-diabetic drugs. The condition costs the NHS an estimated £10bn a year, or £1m an hour.

London was the region with the largest amount of items prescribed, 5.8 per cent of the total number of diabetes prescriptions. Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear had the least, with 3.7 per cent of the total.

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