Poor delivery of diabetes education to sufferers is fuelling serious complications, premature deaths and unsustainable costs to the NHS, according to a new Diabetes UK report.
The charity’s State of the Nation report found that in 2014/15 only 2% of people newly diagnosed with type 1 and 6% of people newly diagnosed with type 2 in England and Wales attended a diabetes education course, which teaches how to effectively manage their condition.
Diabetes UK says the figures are a “huge concern” as poorly managed diabetes increases the risk of debilitating and life-threatening complications such as heart attack, amputations and stroke.
These complications are also extremely costly to the NHS, which spends £10 billion every year on diabetes, equating to 10% of its entire budget.
The report also found that just 41% of people with type 2 and 19% of people with type 1 diabetes in England and Wales are meeting their targets for blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol.
The charity says this is essential in keeping well and reducing risk of complications.
Diabetes UK says the figures highlight that there is a real need to ensure people with diabetes have access to education courses.
Chris Askew, Diabetes UK chief executive, said: “Diabetes is a very serious and complex health condition that requires constant self-management.
This can be extremely overwhelming, yet people with diabetes may only see their GPs and nurses a few times a year, and if they fail to manage their diabetes effectively the results can be devastating.
“This is why it is essential that everyone with diabetes has a chance to learn about how to manage their condition well. In some areas thousands of people with diabetes have attended education courses that give them the confidence and skills to take control of their condition. They can be life-saving. So it is galling that in most places these courses have reached a fraction of those who could benefit.
He added: “Diabetes is the fastest-growing health threat facing our nation and if we don’t get better at supporting people with diabetes to stay healthy we will continue to see high rates of debilitating complications and early death for many people with the condition as well as rising costs to the NHS.”
Diabetes UK is calling for improvements to the delivery of diabetes education courses so that at least half of the people with diabetes receive education over the next five years.
The report was released a day ahead of new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on diabetes in children and young people.
The guidance includes a quality statement on education, insisting children and young people with diabetes “are offered a programme of diabetes education from diagnosis that is updated at least annually”
It says: “Education is essential in enabling self-management of diabetes and reducing the chance of complications. It should start at diagnosis and continue throughout a person’s life.
“It is important to focus education on core topics and tailor it to the individual needs and learning styles of the child or young person and their family members or carers (as appropriate).”
The guidance adds that commissioners are responsible for providing the education service.