Page last updated at 00:37 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010

Better child-diabetes care urged

Blood monitoring
Diabetes disrupts blood sugar levels

A "shocking" number of children are being rushed to hospital each year with potentially fatal complications of diabetes, according to a charity.

Many of the 3,300 cases in England in 2008/9 could have been prevented by better care, says Diabetes UK.

It said that families still found it hard to access specialist diabetes teams and that high admission rates had been linked to service cuts.

There are an estimated 25,000 young people in the UK with type 1 diabetes.

The condition is most often diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 14.

It's shocking to see such high numbers of children being rushed to A&E with this life-threatening condition
Douglas Smallwood, Diabetes UK

People with type 1 diabetes are dependent on daily insulin injections, alongside a controlled diet and frequent blood testing to check blood sugar levels.

If poorly managed, or left undiagnosed, it can cause a complication called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

This can involve a variety of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, rapid breathing and, if left untreated, can lead to coma or death.

There were a total of 13,465 hospital admissions for DKA in the year to April 2009, a quarter of which involved children and young people under 18 years old.

The figures show a steady rise over recent years, with an increase of almost 9% since 2006.

The charity said the rise could be blamed on both children being diagnosed later, when their condition had deteriorated further, and on a failure to manage their condition properly once a diagnosis had been made.

'Investment needed'

Douglas Smallwood, Diabetes UK's chief executive, said: "It's shocking to see such high numbers of children being rushed to A&E with this life-threatening condition."

He said that previous research had suggested that rises in emergency admissions were often preceded by specialist diabetes staff reporting cuts in services.

"Children and their parents desperately need better access to paediatric specialist diabetes teams.

"The number of emergency admissions could be reduced significantly with investment in appropriate care, diabetes advice and practical self-management support."

The charity said that the UK had the fourth highest levels of type 1 diabetes in Europe, and the lowest number of children whose condition was well-controlled.

A DOH spokesperson said the National Clinical Directors for Children and Diabetes are working together to address the variability of care across England for children and young people: "It is vital that all children and young people with diabetes have access to the right education, advice and support from a paediatric specialist diabetes team.

"This will enable them to understand their condition and help them and their carers to manage it effectively so they can avoid DKA and prevent other long term complications."

Karen Addington, chief executive of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation said: "It's appalling that any child is ever admitted to hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), let alone over 3,300 children each year.

"Insulin pumps can be very beneficial in helping people with type 1 diabetes to get good control of their glucose levels, and so can help to prevent hypoglycaemia, a serious complication associated with type 1 diabetes."

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