In 2013-14, there were an estimated 3.2 million people aged 16 years or older with diabetes in England. The condition is estimated to cost the NHS £5.6 billion a year. International evidence suggests that the UK performs well compared to other countries in terms of outcomes for diabetes patients. However, there are significant variations in the routine care and support that diabetes patients receive, and in outcomes for diabetes patients.
The Public Accounts Committee has been reporting on the availability and quality of diabetes services in England. The committee found weaknesses in the approach of the Department for Health and NHS England to treating this disease and believes that as a result "the costs of diabetes to the NHS will continue to rise".
It found that whilst progress has been made since the Committee last examined diabetes services, there remains "unacceptable variations in the take up of education programmes, delivery of recommended care processes, achievement of treatment standards and in outcomes for diabetes patients".
These include geographic variations across clinical commissioning groups, as well as variations between different groups of diabetes patients.
Very few new diabetes patients are taking up education that could help them manage their condition, and the number of diabetes patients experiencing complications (which account for over two-thirds of the cost of diabetes to the NHS) continues to rise.
While the number of diabetes patients experiencing complications continues to increase, diabetes specialist staffing levels in hospitals are not keeping pace with the increasing percentage of beds occupied by diabetes patients.
The Committee calls on the Department and NHS England to take rapid action to improve the spread of best practice in preventing and treating the condition.
· By April 2016, diabetes data should be used to identify clinical commissioning groups performing poorly compared to the national average, and "establish interventions to help them improve".
· By April this year, NHS England and Public Health England should set out a timetable "to ramp up participation in the national diabetes prevention programme" to 100,000 people a year.
· By July, the Committee urges the Department and NHS England to put in place a separate timetable "to reduce geographical variations and variations between different patient groups".
· Making it mandatory for GP practices to submit data for the National Diabetes Audit, and for NHS England to develop a "better and more flexible range of education support" for diabetes patients.
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said today:
"The NHS and Department for Health have been too slow in tackling diabetes, both in prevention and treatment.
The number of people with diabetes is increasing, as is the number of patients who develop complications. It is a very serious condition that can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Yet support available to patients and those at risk varies hugely across the country.
There’s clear evidence of what works and as a priority action must be taken to ensure best practice in treatment and education is adopted across the board.
Taxpayers must have confidence that support is available when and where they need it, rather than by virtue of where they live."