Will the new NHS report on Diabetes make any difference?

NHS call to action

A new report by NHS England, entitled Action for Diabetes, has just been released this month.

It’s a response to previous criticisms by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee in recent years and consists of 32 pages packed full of aspirational ideas and measures for tackling the burgeoning diabetes crisis in England.  And that’s a great start for 2014.  But will it end like many New Year’s Resolutions?

You see, I can already feel my spirits alternately being raised and let down by this report – because we’ve kind of been here before.  Despite previous aspirational reports recommending measures to beat this disease, diabetes care isn’t providing really great results in this country.  The situation now is that:

  • around 3 million people in the UK have diabetes
  • an estimated 850,000 people have undiagnosed diabetes
  • by 2025 5 million people in the UK will have diabetes
  • 7 million people are thought to be at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • about 10% of the NHS budget is spent on diabetes – mainly in relation to complications arising as a consequence of the disease

Here’s my number one issue with this report.  Turn to page 14 and you will find that the top two recommendations by NICE are for structured education, and for personalised dietary and exercise advice for each individual patient.  I have no reservations or hesitation in saying that would be marvellous.

The NICE recommendation for structured education has been around since at least 2005, yet here we are in 2014 and the provision of that education has been dire! The figures below speak volumes:

Patients offered structured education:

  • Newly diagnosed:  2.2% Type 1, 12.0% Type 2
  • All people with diabetes: 1.6% Type 1, 4.5% Type 2

Patients having attended structured education

  • Newly diagnosed – 0.6% Type 1, 3.1% Type 2
  • All people with diabetes – 1.0% Type 1, 1.4% Type 2

That’s a far cry from the NICE recommendation of 2009 that structured education should be an integral part of diabetes care, and “should be offered to every person and/or their carer at and around the time of diagnosis, with annual reinforcement and review”.

So what exactly will be different this time around?  That’s the part that the report doesn’t make at all clear.  Let’s hope this isn’t another case of NHS style over substance – time is running out for empty promises!

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