A massive 83% of children and adolescents with diabetes are failing to hit blood glucose targets, the National Diabetes Audit, which is considered the largest clinical audit in the word, has found.

Furthermore, just 2.6% of those aged 12 and 24 years were given all of the eight checks important for monitoring the condition, including blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, foot and eye exams, and a worrying 22.4% did not even have their blood glucose level measured.

While the situation is better for adult patients, a substantial 40% are also failing to achieve recommended blood glucose levels, with only 30% receiving all the necessary checks related to the condition.

Inadequate treatment of diabetes can lead to a whole host of secondary complications, putting patients at a higher risk of developing potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart and kidney disease and stroke, as well as blindness and amputations, and there is growing concern that services in England and Wales are falling behind what they should be.

As Diabetes UK Chief Executive Douglas Smallwood explained: “Good blood glucose control is the cornerstone of diabetes management, which can help reduce the risk of diabetic complications.”

“An overburdened NHS already spends £5 billion of its annual budget on treating long-term diabetic complications,” he said, and stressed that, particularly as rates of the disease are rising, “huge improvements in care are needed now if we want to give our children a future without the threat of losing their sight or going on kidney dialysis.”

Room for improvement

Although the figures still paint a better picture than that of previous years, clearly there is room for vast improvement, and the findings underscore the urgent need for a fresh look at diabetes services.

This is especially important given that rates of the disease are set to soar, and nearly 10% of the NHS budget already goes on treating diabetes and its complications. Currently, there are an estimated 2.35 million people with diabetes in England but, by 2010, this is predicted to grow to more than 2.5 million, in part due to increasing obesity.

Rates of obesity, a key precursor for diabetes type II, are snowballing in the UK. A recent report by Foresight predict that, by 2050, 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and about 25% of all children under 16 could be obese, presenting a huge healthcare challenge and costing the NHS a whopping £45 billion.