A new report warns that diabetes will cost the NHS more than a sixth of its entire budget by 2035. The disease accounts for 10 per cent (£9.8 billion) of NHS spending, but this is projected to rise to £16.9 billion over the next 25 years, or 17 per cent of the health service's funds. There are around 3.8 million people living with diabetes in the UK and this is expected to increase to 6.25 million in just over two decades.
The report was put together by researchers at the York Health Economic Consortium, in partnership with charities Diabetes UK, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Sanofi Diabetes.
Researchers also found that up to four-fifths of the money goes on treating complications such as kidney failure, nerve damage and amputation, which are often preventable. Their Impact Diabetes report, published in the journal Diabetic Medicine, also considered the indirect costs to individuals living with the condition, including those related to increased death and illness, the loss of income from stopping work, and the need for informal care. It found the total associated with these extra burdens in addition to direct patient care in the UK stands at £23.7 billion and is predicted to rise to £39.8 billion by 2035.
Baroness Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said, “This report shows that without urgent action, the already huge sums of money being spent on treating diabetes will rise to unsustainable levels that threaten to bankrupt the NHS. But the most shocking part of this report is the finding that almost four-fifths of NHS diabetes spending goes on treating complications that in many cases could have been prevented.”
“The failure to do more to prevent these complications is both a tragedy for the people involved and a damning indictment of the failure to implement the clear and recommended solutions. Unless the Government and the NHS start to show real leadership on this issue, this unfolding public health disaster will only get worse,” she said.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said, “We agree that diabetes is a very serious illness and one that has a big impact on the NHS. That's why we are tackling the disease on three fronts. First, through prevention of Type 2 diabetes - encouraging people to eat well and be more active. Second, by helping people to manage their diabetes through the nine annual health care checks performed in primary care. And by better management of the condition in hospital.”
Karen Addington, from Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) - which was also commissioned the report – said, “It's the first time that we have been able to see the cost of the unavoidable autoimmune condition Type 1 diabetes separately. This is important because the causes of Type 1 and the challenge it presents are very different to Type 2, and only medical research can lift this burden on families, the NHS and the economy.”
General Yves Leterme, from the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development said, “Preventing and treating diabetes and its complications costs about 90bn euros (£73bn) annually in Europe alone. With health budgets already under great pressure and national budgets severely strained, for the sake of our health and the health of our economies we must find ways to prevent and manage diabetes in a cost-effective manner.”
Both Type 1 diabetes, which tends to appear in childhood, and Type 2 diabetes, often linked to diet, lead to problems controlling the amount of sugar in the blood. Complications occur when people with diabetes sustain high levels of glucose over a long period. This can lead to increased chances of developing disease-related complications, such as kidney failure, nerve damage, damage to the retina, stroke and cardiovascular disease.