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Diabetes UK says people living with the condition were “pushed to the back of the queue” in the coronavirus crisis and a national plan is needed to catch up on delayed care.
Its survey of more than 10,000 people with the condition found just under half experienced difficulties managing it last year. Of those, 63 percent said this was partly due to not having enough access to their healthcare team – the figure rose to 71 percent in the most deprived areas.
NHS data shows just 36 percent of people with diabetes in England had all their recommended checks in 2020/21, down from 57 percent in the previous 12 months. Chris Askew, arlen ness fairing on sportster chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “If people with diabetes cannot receive the care they need, they can risk devastating, life-altering complications and, sadly, early death.”
“The impacts on care for people living with diabetes have been vast. While the Government has been focused on cutting waiting lists for operations and other planned care, people with diabetes have been pushed to the back of the queue.”
There are 4.9 million people living with the condition in the UK.
It can lead to complications including serious foot problems – around 185 leg, foot or toe amputations are carried out each week as a result. Other dangers include eye problems, a higher risk of heart attack or stroke, nerve damage and gum disease.
Sufferers are meant to have regular checks including blood sugar measurements, foot checks and blood pressure monitoring to catch complications early. But Diabetes UK said there had been a “lack of priority and urgency given to recovering diabetes care” after the Covid disruption.
Its poll found one in six had not had contact with a diabetes healthcare team since before the pandemic.
Mr Askew added: “Urgent action is now required. We need to get this essential, life-saving care back on track, or lives will be needlessly lost.”
An NHS spokesman said: “The NHS is providing £36million to local areas to recover services and improve the lives of people living with or at risk of diabetes.”
Comment by Naveed Sattar
The pandemic showed people living with diabetes are at particularly high risk of serious complications and death from Covid-19.
The reasons for this are not straightforward, but basically the more complications someone with diabetes has, the greater their Covid risk.
Many living with type 2 diabetes have excess body fat, which also pushes up Covid risk – so a double hit.
Should we ever face another pandemic, it would be helpful to stop complications developing for diabetics.
However, as Diabetes UK now reports, many of the care processes diabetics normally receive were curtailed due to the need to socially distance.
Many of them missed blood or blood pressure tests and lost routine appointments to check their eyes or feet.
Worryingly, such problems appeared to be more common among disadvantaged groups.
Experts are wondering whether risk factors leading to complications have escalated in people living with diabetes.
But the evidence thus far is not that clear and follow-ups are needed to reveal the true impact of the pandemic on diabetes-related problems.
We know type 2 diabetes in most people is a disease driven by excess body fat that also worsens blood fat levels and blood pressure, as well as increasing the chances of many other conditions.
This country, therefore, needs to focus on the prevention of diabetes as well as other conditions, by investing more in lifestyle-related clinical services and diet advice.
Prevention must be the NHS mantra going forwards – or else costs, diabetes rates and patient suffering will continue to rise, regardless of whether more pandemics hit us.
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