The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has risen by more than 167,000 since last year, bringing the total number of sufferers to almost 2.5 million.

The data has been unveiled by Diabetes UK, which notes that the rise is more than double the 2006 to 2007 increase of 83,000. In England, a 6.4% rise means the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has broken two million for the first time. In Northern Ireland and Wales, the increase was 6.8% and 6% respectively, with diabetes prevalence now standing at 60,822 and 138,988.

The charity noted that improved recording in Scotland contributed to the biggest rise (16.9%) with the diabetes population now standing at 200,669 and the figures also show that there are now five million people registered obese in the UK compared to almost 4.8 million last year.

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said that “these are truly alarming figures”, though he acknowledged that the huge increase can be attributed to improved screening from healthcare services and greater awareness amongst those at high risk of type 2 diabetes. However, “there is no getting away from the fact that this large increase is linked to the obesity crisis,” he added.

Mr Smallwood went on to say that diabetes causes heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness, “and more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined”. The National Health Service “already spends one million pounds an hour on diabetes”, he claimed, putting “a massive strain on an already struggling NHS and unless it can respond, people’s health could spiral downwards”.

He concluded by saying that “we need to do all we can to raise awareness of the seriousness of diabetes and help people understand how a healthy lifestyle can help reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes”.

The figures are from the 2007-2008 Quality and Outcomes framework for England by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care, for Scotland by the Information Services Division, for Northern Ireland by the Department of Health, Social Services Public Safety and for Wales by its National Assembly.