Is the UK's standard of diabetes care up to scratch?

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The Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office sounds like a Dickensian outfit, complete with ledgers and quill pens.

Its job is to audit whether the government is spending the nation's pennies wisely. It all sounds very Victorian.

But you can't decide whether the Department of Health, for example, is spending wisely unless you look at what it's spending money on and whether that's wise. And that often brings the NAO to the centre of controversy.

A women with diabetes injects herself with insulin
A women with diabetes injects herself with insulin Credit: Reuters

It's latest report into how the NHS treats people with diabetes is certainly a hot number. For a start, it says the Health Department doesn't even know how much its spending on diabetes.

They "estimate" a spend of £1.3 billion - the NAO says its actually £3.9 billion - four per cent of the NHS budget. Then, it states baldly that only half of people with diabetes received the recommended standards of care.

In 2001, the Department said people with diabetes should get nine "basics" every year - things like eye scans and blood tests.

The idea is to control three factors - blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But fewer than one in five people with diabetes are "achieving recommended standards for controlling all three."

A diabetic patient takes a blood sugar level reading
A diabetic patient takes a blood sugar level reading

The upshot is that not enough is being done to reduce the risk of complications of diabetes like blindness, amputation and kidney disease.

Remember 24,000 people die every year from causes related to their diabetes. And also remember the number of people with diabetes is predicted to rise by 23 per cent to 3.8 million by 2020.

The NAO says flatly: “The Department of Health has failed to deliver diabetes care to the standard it set out as long ago as 2001"