Supporting people with diabetes to avoid emergency hospital care could save the NHS as much as £3 billion per year according, to a new study.
An analysis on planned care and A&E data has found that over a third of people with diabetes have difficulty in managing their blood glucose levels leading to health complications that require emergency hospital care.
In total, approximately £5.5 billion was spent on hospital diabetes care, and an estimated £3 billion of this was deemed “avoidable” by the researchers. This figure accounts for nearly 10% of the NHS hospital budget.
Diabetes is a complex condition to manage and, not surprisingly, costs of treatment are higher than for people without diabetes.
On average, the cost of care for people with type 2 diabetes is twice as much as it is for people without diabetes, with emergency care three times as much. Meanwhile, the cost of hospital care is six times as high for people with type 1 diabetes as people without the condition.
Dr Adrian Heald, of Salford Royal Hospital and one of the study authors, said: “People with diabetes are admitted to hospital more often, especially as emergencies, and stay on average longer as inpatients.
“These increased hospital costs, 40 per cent of which come from non-elective and emergency care, are three times higher than the current costs of diabetes medication.
“Improved management of diabetes by GPs and diabetes specialist care teams could improve the health of people with diabetes and substantially reduce the level of hospital care and costs.”
Emma Elvin, senior clinical adviser at Diabetes UK, suggested that more information is needed about the specific reasons why patients are admitted to hospital before conclusions can be drawn.
She commented: “What we do know, is that more than a million people with diabetes were admitted to hospital in England in 2017 – meaning around 18 per cent of hospital beds were occupied by someone with diabetes – but it is incredibly important to stress that only 8 per cent were admitted because of their condition.”
It is hoped that measures, such as expansion of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, will improve the situation and bring down NHS spending on diabetes management in the future.
The study’s findings were presented at the 55th annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), which is being held in Barcelona from 16-20 Sept.