A postcode lottery for healthcare for diabetes patients in England is “fuelling a major health crisis,” a new report warns.

Diabetes UK’s latest annual State of the Nation report finds huge regional variations in people’s ability to access quality integrated diabetes care, right across the system. For example, it finds that:: 

- people with diabetes in the best-performing area are four times more likely to have the annual checks they need to manage their condition than in the worst-performing area;

- in the best-performing area, 28% of people with diabetes have their condition under control – defined as meeting targets for blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol – while in the worst-performing areas, just 17% do so; and

- in the best-performing areas, about half of people newly-diagnosed with diabetes are offered structured education. However, in many areas almost no-one is offered it, despite the fact that structured education, together with giving people the support they need to manage their own condition, is seen as one of the most important ways of ensuring people can access services and reducing the risk of complications.

Diabetes UK calls on the government and NHS England for a review into the reasons for these large geographical variations and to put in place an action plan for people living in the worst-performing areas. 

And where performance is below average, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) need to take urgent action to bring standards up to those that currently exist in the average-performing areas, it adds.

Perhaps the most “alarming” aspect of the report is its revelation that the quality of diabetes healthcare which people receive is a question of location, said Diabetes UK’s chief executive, Barbara Young.

She asked: “if somewhere like Tower Hamlets, which has significant health challenges, is able to give three-quarters of people with diabetes the annual checks they need, why are there so many areas where less than half of people get these checks?”

“We know that healthcare professionals are already working hard to make a difference and we need all CCGs to take that opportunity. CCGs are new bodies and so cannot be blamed for this crisis, but they do have responsibility for fixing it,” she said. 

“Getting the worst-performing areas to bring their performance up to the average should be eminently achievable, and because we are already spending a huge amount of money on treating complications that could often be prevented through better management of the condition, we do not need lots of extra money to make things better.”

“But it will only happen if those areas and the government make diabetes a much higher priority,” Baroness Young emphasised.