First and foremost, please be assured that I recognise the importance of this issue and have done a lot of work in relation to obesity and diabetes both on my own and with the Health Select Committee.
Diabetes is a leading cause of premature mortality, doubling an individual's risk of cardiovascular disease. It costs over £10 billion every year to manage and results in over 22,000 additional deaths each year. That is why I believe it is important that high quality diabetes care is available.
A total £5 million was provided in 2021/22 in a national recovery fund to support the recovery of routine diabetes care through innovative projects. The programme approved 28 projects with delivery in 2022/23. A further £75 million of funding is also being allocated between 2020/21 and 2023/24 for the treatment and care of people living with diabetes. NHS England continues to work to identify and develop plans to address gaps in the provision of services.
The Government also supports work to prevent the development of diabetes. The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme operates to identify people who are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and refers them onto a nine-month, evidence-based lifestyle change programme. Latest figures in February 2023 shows a 20 per cent reduction in risk for those who are referred to the programme compared to those who are not.
Furthermore, the Government has announced its intention to develop and publish a Major Conditions Strategy. The strategy will set out a strong and coherent policy agenda that sets out a shift to integrated, whole-person care. Interventions set out in the strategy will aim to alleviate pressure on the health system, as well as support the Government’s objective to increase healthy life expectancy and reduce ill-health related labour market inactivity. Diabetes is one of the six major conditions included in the strategy.
On 17 May, the Government launched its call for evidence for the Major Conditions Strategy which will run until 27 June. You can have your say by completing this survey: https://consultations.dhsc.gov.uk/645cb4b614fbee6d990990c9
The Government is aware of some limited issues with the supply of two insulin products and has worked with manufacturers to ensure sufficient supplies are available to meet demand. The Government is also aware of a discontinuation of one insulin preparation and has issued communications to the NHS with advice on how to manage affected patients.
I strongly appreciate how distressing the possibility of insulin shortages can be, but I would like to assure you that the Department for Health and Social Care has well-established processes to prevent, manage and mitigate medicine shortages.
Where there has been an issue with an insulin product, alternatives have remained available, and a wide range of insulin products exist. Ministerial colleagues are working at pace to ensure that these issues are resolved as quickly as possible. Patients should liaise with their doctor or pharmacist if they have any questions on this matter.
Although I am not aware of any initiatives to educate children and young people about diabetes specifically in schools, universities and colleges, I believe that education plays a key part in the prevention and management of diabetes. Obesity, for instance, is the single greatest factor in developing type 2 diabetes. I am therefore encouraged that the basic principles of healthy eating are taught in schools from Key Stage 1.
The latest Better Health campaign, launched last year, focuses on six key benefits associated with a healthier weight which includes a reduced risk of developing diabetes. A range of free support and guidance has also been made available alongside the campaign to help individuals lose weight and eat more healthily.
While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and is not linked to lifestyle, type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through lifestyle changes. That is why I am delighted that prevention is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP). One of the key commitments in the LTP is to double, to 200,000 people per year by 2024, the scale of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme which supports those identified as high risk of type 2 diabetes to reduce their risk.
I absolutely agree that technology could, and should, provide vital support to people managing diabetes and I know that new treatments and technologies are being created all the time. Integrated Care Boards are responsible for commissioning diabetes services for their local populations. This includes prescribing technologies for people living with diabetes, for example glucose monitoring devices. Following a successful two-year pilot programme that saw a significant increase in the adoption of flash glucose technology across all groups responsible for commissioning,
I am encouraged to see that nearly three-fifths of patients living with type 1 diabetes are now benefiting from flash glucose monitoring. Commissioning decisions for the adoption of technology products in diabetes are always guided by clinical and cost effective assessments, delivered by NICE and other regulatory bodies.
I agree that it is extremely important for people with diabetes to be fully supported in maintaining their blood glucose levels.
It is vital that glucose monitoring technology, such as continuous glucose monitoring or blood glucose test strips, continues to be available to those meeting the relevant clinical criteria. The decision to adopt this technology is guided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Following a recent review, NICE has expanded its recommendation for the use of continuous glucose monitoring to all adults and children with type 1 diabetes and flash monitoring to all adults with type 1 diabetes for the first time. Additionally, flash monitoring has been further recommended to those with type 2 diabetes on insulin therapy.
This decision will help make life more convenient for those with the condition and that they no longer have to constantly worry, as an alarm will alert them to dangerous changes in blood glucose levels. This will also save the NHS time and resources by preventing people becoming ill in the first place.
I know that new treatments and technologies are being created all the time, which is why I welcome the Medicines and Medical Devices Act, which seeks to keep patients safe while ensuring they have the safest and earliest possible access to new drugs and technologies.