Patients with diabetes in England are not getting the healthcare they need, with services across the country now in “a state of crisis”, UK charity Diabetes Care has warned.

The group’s State of the Nation 2012 report paints a pretty dire picture, claiming that less than half of diabetics are receiving the basic minimum care, while in some areas of the country just 6% are getting the regular checks and services recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence.

Just as worryingly, a quarter of children and young people with Type I diabetes are only diagnosed when they already need emergency treatment, while 40% of people – and a whopping 85% of children and young people - with the condition are failing to hit their blood glucose targets.

This, the report states, has helped drive an increase in diabetes-related complications such as amputation, blindness, kidney failure and stroke, all of which not only “dramatically reduce quality of life” and can lead to early death, but also cost the economy a fortune.

According to findings from the National Diabetes Audit, up to 24,000 people in England with the condition are dying every year from causes that could be avoided through better management of the disease.

As the charity points out, treating the complications of the disease takes up around 80% of National Health Service spending on diabetes, which itself accounts for 10% of the entire health service budget.

Another recent report, by the York Health Economic Consortium, warned this month that annual NHS spending on diabetes is set to increase from £9.8 billion to £16.9 billion over the next 25 years, accounting for 17% of the Service's entire budget by 2035, adding further weight to Diabetes Care UK’s insistence that the current “approach to diabetes is in need of wholesale change”.

National Service Framework failing

Crucially, while the National Service Framework for diabetes – which describes the care that should be available to treat the condition – has been around for 11 years, “it is yet to become a reality”, it says, and calls on the government to urgently deliver a plan to implement these standards.

In addition, a more effective risk assessment and early diagnosis is essential to help people either avoid Type II diabetes or get the healthcare they need to better manage the condition and thus avoid its complications.

Also, all those diagnosed with the disease should have easy access to education to help them understand the importance of self-managing their disease to ward off complications.

"We already know that diabetes in costing the NHS a colossal amount of money, but this report shows how in exchange for this investment we are getting second-rate healthcare that is putting people with diabetes at increased risk of tragic complications and early death,” said Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.

Long-term approach

“By taking the longer-term approach of investing in making sure people get the basic checks and services, we could save money by reducing the number of complications and make life immeasurably better for people with diabetes,” she stressed.

In an emailed statement, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow stressed that improving diabetes care "is a priority". 

He acknowledged an "unacceptable variation in the quality of care", but stressed that the government is "working on a new long term conditions strategy, which will include diabetes with a focus is on prevention and education, getting earlier diagnoses and helping people manage their conditions".