Poor Management of Diabetes and its Cost to the NHS
News article published on: 25th September 2019
It was recently revealed that the NHS spends £3 billion every year on patients with poorly managed diabetes, a figure which amounts to 8% of the annual hospital cost in England. Diabetes itself is the second biggest contributor to healthcare costs throughout the European Union, second only to age. However the poor management of diabetes is an avoidable problem and evidently one which if solved could release vast sums of money to be spent elsewhere in the health system.
Type one diabetes causes the level of glucose in your blood to become too high, due to the body not being able to produce enough insulin in the pancreas (a hormone which controls glucose levels). Patients with Type one diabetes need to inject insulin daily in order to regulate their blood glucose levels. As a result, properly managing this type of diabetes can be very difficult, particularly in the months following diagnosis. It is not known exactly what causes Type one diabetes, however normally the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas.
Type two diabetes is the more common type of diabetes with over 2 million people being affected. In patients with type two diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin, or does not produce enough insulin to regulate glucose levels. Again, it is not known exactly what causes type two diabetes, although genetics and particularly environmental factors, such as being overweight and/or being inactive, are thought to contribute. Management of Type two diabetes includes being advised to eat healthily, lose weight and regular exercise. However medication and insulin therapy as well as blood sugar monitoring are also common treatments.
Cost to the NHS
The effective management of both types of diabetes is therefore at least in part down to the will of the individual. Two thirds of people with Type one diabetes and a third of those with type two diabetes have poor control over their blood sugar levels, something which can lead to serious health problems such as kidney disease. This increases their chances of needing a hospital admission and makes the cost of treating these patients much higher than it needs to be. However, GPs and diabetic specialists also have a vital role to play in ensuring that patients manage their blood sugar levels more effectively.
Dr Adrian Heald of Salford Royal Hospital recently commented that:
“Improved management of diabetes by GPs and diabetes specialist care teams could improve the health of people with diabetes and substantially reduce the level of hospital care and costs”.
What Can Be Done?
Prevention of diabetes as well as better education of those with the condition is vital to ensuring that the cost of unnecessary treatment does not keep on rising. Indeed, the NHS has recognised the importance of both of these factors. A spokeswoman for NHS England said:
“The NHS Long Term Plan is playing its part, by expanding the Diabetes Prevention Programme so 200,000 people a year who are at risk are helped to prevent it as well as significant investment to care for with those with type 1, including providing life-changing tech to measure sugar levels, which can free up NHS time and resources”
Only time will tell whether this strategy will be effective. However, an additional complication is that management of diabetes is often much more difficult in patients with other health conditions, in particular mental health conditions. Osbornes recently advised the family of a patient who passed away following a hypoglycaemic episode. He had poor management of his diabetes for many years previously as a result of his autism, ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. There was a clear failure by the treating professionals to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to his care and in this case such an approach had fatal consequences.
Only time will tell whether the strategy outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan will be effective.
At Osbornes Law we care about how you are treated by medical professionals, whether in the community, at your GP surgery or at hospital and also under the care of private providers of health services. We have many years’ experience of dealing with claims of this nature.
If you think that the care you or a loved one has received fell below the standard expected of a reasonably competent professional, then please do not hesitate to contact Partner and specialist medical negligence lawyer Stephanie Prior on 020 7681 8671, or Nicholas Leahy on 020 7485 8811. You can also fill out an online enquiry form here.