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Why improved patient care and support is needed to help people with diabetes in the UK

Managing diabetes can be overwhelming, yet many people with the condition are not supported to do this effectively. This is despite the fact that poor management of diabetes can lead to devastating complications and increased costs to the NHS. This needs to change.

Every day there are millions of men, women and children across the UK who do something extraordinary: they are managing a serious and complex health condition that lasts a lifetime and requires constant self-management. The condition is diabetes, and there is currently no cure for it.

As everyone with the condition knows, managing diabetes can be tough and overwhelming. For example, people with Type 1 diabetes – and those who have Type 2 diabetes and are on insulin – have to constantly monitor their food and drink intake, adjusting their insulin to ensure their blood sugar levels are about right. They do this every day and may only have contact with healthcare professionals a few times a year.

Despite this challenge, many people with diabetes live life to the full and accomplish remarkable and amazing feats. Famous examples of this include England International Rugby player Chris Pennell and Home Secretary Theresa May.

But while having diabetes doesn’t have to hold you back, there are still too many people living with the condition who are prevented from fully participating in their life, with their health being put at great risk by poor care and support. For example, four in 10 diabetes patients are still not receiving all the essential health checks and services that are crucial in helping to identify diabetes-related problems early, and children and young people with diabetes are receiving considerably worse routine care than adults.

Left undiagnosed or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to debilitating and life threatening complications, including blindness, amputations and stroke. These complications cause personal devastation and are also extremely costly. In fact, diabetes costs the NHS £10 billion a year – that’s 10 per cent of the NHS budget – and 80 per cent of this spend goes on managing potentially avoidable complications.

Ensuring that people with diabetes are fully supported to become knowledgeable about their condition and how to manage it effectively, along with better patient care, is critical to improving health outcomes and reducing NHS costs. But at the moment just 16 per cent of people newly diagnosed with diabetes are offered access to a formal course covering how to effectively manage their condition, and only three per cent of people newly diagnosed with diabetes actually attend one.

With 3.8 million people living with diabetes and it being projected that five million people will be living with the condition by 2025, the NHS needs to make providing education to all people with diabetes a greater priority, but it is also vital that diabetes patients demand it.

This is why the focus of Diabetes Week 2015 is raising awareness of the support, advice and education opportunities available to people with diabetes which will help them to look after themselves well. Diabetes is a very serious health condition that no one should have to go through alone.

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