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Volume 281: debated on Tuesday 16 July 1996

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is his estimate of the current number of insulin-dependent diabetics and non-insulin-dependent diabetics in the United Kingdom. [35792]

The health survey for England 1994 estimated that the prevalence of diabetics was approximately 2.4 per cent. Studies suggest that 80 per cent. of people with diabetes are non-insulin dependent.

Is the Minister aware that the number of new cases of diabetes is rising each year and that the estimated cost to the national health service is between £1.4 billion and £1.8 billion a year? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that more resources targeted directly at finding the causes, ameliorating and eventually curing diabetes would be a wonderful investment for the NHS, and would in the end prevent much human misery as well as save much public cash?

I agree that diabetes is treated extremely seriously by the NHS. We need to combine treatment, care, prevention and cure where possible, and research is a party to all that. The fact that we have the sub-group of the clinical outcomes group examining the purchaser guidance that should be developed, based on the St. Vincent's task force recommendations, should be of some comfort to the hon. Gentleman. The report is expected at about the end of the year. In addition, both the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health have made about £5 million available for major research projects. That, too, is the way forward.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the chronic disease management programme has been very successful in improving standards of care for people suffering from diabetes?

If I heard my hon. Friend correctly, he said that the chronic disease management programme was playing an important part in that, and I am happy to say that more than 90 per cent. of general practitioners now run this programme for diabetes, which, of course, enables them to keep a register in their surgeries, to see their patients once a year and to check, in particular, the eyes and feet, as recommended by St. Vincent's.