Page last updated at 08:30 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 09:30 UK

Gaps in NHS diabetes care remain

finger prick test
Self-management has improved

Diabetes care is improving, but there is still a long way to go before the NHS is providing top quality services, according to a government report.

The Department of Health study analysed progress made since its diabetes plan was published five years ago.

The report said that the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of patients in England was getting better.

But it warned more needed to be done for pregnant women, children and emergencies.

The 10-year diabetes national service framework set out 12 key standards for care in 2003.

The report said progress was being made on all of them.

Since 2003, an extra 600,000 diagnoses have been made - the equivalent of 2,000 a week.

But experts still estimate up to 500,000 cases may be undiagnosed.

Future challenges

The report pointed out the NHS faces a challenge managing the growing number of people with the condition.

It now stands at two million, but is expected to increase because of the ageing population and more people becoming obese.


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The report praised the work being done on involving people in their own care - a key requirement of the recent review of the NHS by Lord Darzi.

The report also said good work is being done to help prevent complications.

Screening is already being offered for diabetes retinopathy, an eye problem which can lead to blindness if left untreated, while a vascular screening programme for all over 40s was announced in April to look for the early signs of heart disease, stroke and kidney problems.

However, the report said more needed to be done over the management of emergencies, such as hypoglycaemic attacks, episodes of low blood sugar which in the most severe cases can induce comas.

Just half of patients get the recommended standard of treatment.

'Challenges remain'

The report highlighted gaps in care for children and pregnant women - up to 5% of pregnancies were complicated by the condition. It said these patients needed access to specialist services, but provision remained variable.

Dr Rowan Hillson, the government's diabetes tsar, said: "The NHS has responded impressively to the first five years of the national service framework.

"More and more people with diabetes are getting good routine care."

But she added challenges remain for the future.

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said diabetes was still taking a terrible toll on the population.

He pointed out the condition caused 100 amputations a week and was linked to one in 10 deaths.

He added: "Much more needs to be done to ensure that all people with, and those at risk of, diabetes have access to the information, education, support and high-quality care to enable them to manage their condition on a day-to-day basis with the help of specialist diabetes teams."

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