Keeping people with diabetes out of hospital

November 1, 2011 5:00 PM

Speaking in the House of LordsToday, Lord Collins of Highbury asked a question about how the Government was responding to the rapidly growing number of people with diabetes. I used the question to draw attention to the report that I launched today on "Keeping people with diabetes out of hospital."

The report was drawn up through a series of meetings convened by the Primary Care Diabetes Society that I chaired in the House of Lords. Earl Howe, the Minister for Health in the House of Lords confirmed that he would look at the report and study the evidence on which it was based.

Diabetes, by its very nature, is a complex condition and treatment spans the entire NHS care pathway. As such there are many costs attributed to it, particularly when you take into consideration the multiple complications that it can cause, including blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. More often than not these additional complications will result in a person being admitted into hospital; a medical intervention that places strain on the patient, and on the public purse.

In our assessment of current clinical practices, it became clear that, across the continuum of care, there are many gaps through which a patient can fall - managing their diabetes poorly and suffering complications or having their condition diagnosed too late. The socio-economic circumstances of a person with diabetes can also have a considerable impact on their access to care and the way in which they manage, or mismanage, their condition. The Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community, older people, children and young people and those from deprived socio-economic backgrounds are all more susceptible to mismanagement, complications and the subsequent reliance on costly acute care services.

Our report showed that there is some excellent practice in helping people to achieve good diabetic control - but that this best practice is not consistent. Much more is being learned about how we can help people with diabetes maintain healthy lifestyles and avoid diabetic complications that can have these serious consequences.

I suggested to Earl Howe that greater provision of insulin pumps and more extensive use of bariatric surgery may prove to be cost effective to the NHS over a few years. When wider considerations are taken into account in terms of people with diabetes sustaining better health in future and contributing more positively to the economy, the these procedures may reduce the costs of diabetes to the public purse rather than add to it.

Health Minister Paul Burstow spoke at the official launch of the report in the House of Lords later this afternoon. I was able to introduce him as a personal friend and as a good friend of the diabetic community. He was very mindful of the consequences of failing to help people manage their diabetic control and the huge cost (about 10% of the NHS budget) of trying to deal with the problem at the moment.

It is an issue which parliamentarians present (including Adrian Sanders MP who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Diabetes) undertook to keep up the pressure.