Diabetes UK is warning that diabetes could bankrupt the National Health Service as cases soar 60% in just a decade.

The charity said there are now 3.3 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK, marking an increase of more than 1.2 million adults from 2005, and this doesn’t take into account an estimated 590,000 adults who remain undiagnosed.

If current trends continue, experts forecast that 5 million people will have diabetes by 2025. But around 90% of cases are type II diabetes, a lifestyle condition closely linked to excess weight, poor diet and lack of exercise and thus entirely preventable.

Effective disease management is crucial in diabetes because keeping blood sugar levels in check helps avoid serious and expensive complications such as kidney disease, stroke, blindness and amputation, which place a huge strain on services.

But currently just 60% of patients in England and Wales are receiving the recommended care processes - including blood pressure and glucose checks - recommended by the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE), increasing the risk of developing these complications. 

Diabetes already costs the NHS nearly £10 billion a year, 10% of its total budget, but the lion’s share of this - a whopping 80% - is spent on managing avoidable complications. “So there is huge potential to save money and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals and services through providing better care,” said Diabetes UK chief executive Barbara Young.

The surge in cases reflects an urgent need for effective care for people living with diabetes and highlights the importance of prevention, the charity stressed, noting that “failure to act on this threatens to bring down the NHS”.