The latest national diabetes audit has revealed that the number of people with the condition receiving the whole suite of recommended annual health checks has fallen to its lowest ever level.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends eight yearly checks to ensure that any potential complications linked with the disease are picked up and addressed as early as possible.
But the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s (HSCIC) audit of 1.9 million people with diabetes in England and Wales found that just 38.7% of those with type I diabetes and 58.7% of those with type II underwent all of the eight tests in 2014-15.
Moreover, the figures were found to be significantly lower in younger patients aged under 40 years; just 27.3% of type I patients and 40.8% of type II sufferers had all eight check, leaving a large number at greater risk from potentially devastating and even life-threatening but preventable complications such as amputation, kidney failure and heart disease.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, says the findings are “deeply worrying”.
“We know that young people may struggle to fit in getting the checks with work and a busy life. But it is vital that commissioners look at ways to enable more young people to have better access to the healthcare services that will help them to manage their diabetes on a day to day basis”.
“As the number of people with diabetes continues to soar, mainly fuelled by the massive increase in recent years of people developing type II diabetes, there really is no time to waste; urgent action must be taken so that young people, our future generation, have the best possible chances of living long, healthy lives,” he stressed.
The data does show a small rise in take-up for some of the key tests across all age groups, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and HbA1c, but there was also an eight percent drop in the number of people with type I diabetes and a near 10 percent drop in those with type II diabetes receiving an urine albumin test, which is crucial to picking up kidney damage early.
The findings follow a report by the National Audit Office last October which found that 22,000 people are dying every year from avoidable diabetes complications. It also said the NHS, Clinical Comissioning Group, Department of Health and arms-length bodies have failed to deliver any improvement in delivery the key care processes recommended by NICE.
Askew said Diabetes UK is now keen to “work with Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England to address the major problems in diabetes and turn 2016 into a year where local healthcare teams are given the support to really make a difference to people living with diabetes so that they do not continue to suffer the very serious complications of poorly managed diabetes".