Figures from NHS Digital released on Thursday revealed that diabetes prescriptions cost the NHS in England more than £1 billion a year. This is an increase of more than £422 million in the last 10 years.
The findings are concerning, but there is room for optimism. People with diabetes are living longer due to advances in technology and diabetes care, and eating a healthy diet can help keep diabetes under control.
Moreover, while more than four million people have diabetes in the UK (90% of cases are type 2 diabetes), this can partially be explained by improvements in diagnoses.
“Thanks to better diagnosis and treatment, the NHS is caring for more people than ever before with diabetes, and this new data highlights the urgent need to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing in the first place,” said Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity at NHS England.
Almost one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs are now for diabetes treatment, with the biggest increases seen in treatments for type 2 diabetes. Around £477m was spent on antidiabetic medication in 2017-18, £350m was spent on insulin and £181m on diagnostic and monitoring devices.
People at high risk of type 2 diabetes (known as prediabetes) can avoid the condition by making healthy lifestyle changes. This is the objective of the NHS’ Diabetes Prevention Programme.
The program has also helped those with type 2 diabetes come off their diabetes medication altogether, and helped people with type 1 diabetes avoid rollercoaster blood sugar levels due to needing less insulin.