Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Rebecca Harris.)
I would like to begin with some acknowledgements to those who contributed towards the material that I will be using today, so let me place on record my thanks to Dr Jacq Allan from Birkbeck University and the charity Diabetics with Eating Disorders; Sandie Atkinson-Goulding; Dr Weston and Dr Zaidi from the Royal Liverpool University Hospital; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Incisive Health; and Diabetes UK. I thank them all for sharing their expertise, briefing notes and academic work with me.
I intend to highlight the technology that is available for people with type 1 diabetes, point out some issues surrounding access to technologies and say a few words about the lack of structured education and psychological support available for type 1 diabetics. To conclude, I will make some suggestions to the Minister on what the Government can do to progress towards artificial pancreas systems.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, where an individual cannot naturally produce insulin. According to JDRF, this condition affects 400,000 people in the UK, of whom 29,000 are children. JDRF is leading on and funding the design of an artificial pancreas, which will change the lives of those affected by type 1 diabetes considerably. The artificial pancreas is in advanced human trials and the work in the UK is being led by Professor Roman Hovorka at the University of Cambridge, with funding from JDRF. Artificial pancreas systems automate blood-sugar management, dramatically reducing type 1 diabetes-related risks and improving the lives of people who have the condition. The artificial pancreas consists of a continuous glucose monitor, a computer programme and an insulin pump that work together to automatically control background insulin levels. These artificial pancreas systems, which may be a combination of existing or newly developed continuous glucose monitoring systems and insulin pump technology, have been termed the “artificial pancreas” because they monitor and adjust insulin levels just as the pancreas does in people who do not suffer from diabetes. Artificial pancreas systems have the potential to transform lives, particularly for those who find it difficult to maintain good blood-glucose control.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that simple continuous glucose monitors that are already available—I believe the Prime Minister wears one—are still not being allowed to children and young people who would benefit from them because some clinical commissioning groups do not prescribe them? When I asked the Secretary of State about this affair, I was told that the Department has no intention of monitoring what CCGs measure. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is not a satisfactory state of affairs?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is right in what he says, and I will be covering precisely that point later in my speech.
A recent JDRF-funded trial found that the artificial pancreas is better at helping people to manage their glucose levels than the best currently available technology. People who used the artificial pancreas spent 65% of time with glucose levels in range, which compares with 54% of time for people using a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump. Unfortunately, as my hon. Friend mentioned, there are significant regional variations in access to existing diabetes technologies, such as insulin pumps, in many parts of the country. The most recent national diabetes audit, published in July 2018, shows that although the overall uptake of insulin pumps has increased, the proportion of people with type 1 diabetes attending specialist services who are treated with pumps varies from a pitiful 5% to 40% at best.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is familiar with a group called #WeAreNotWaiting. They are people who are developing their own equipment, pumps, monitoring system and computers, because they are not prepared to wait for technology that could be made available to help them.
As my right hon. Friend says, the pumps are available but not widely available on the NHS, despite being a leading British technology. Of course, the other problem is that there is no push from the Government for concerted commercial development of these systems in this country.
I will give way in a moment. I just want to finish answering the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe).
The email reads:
“As someone who has built an artificial pancreas using the open artificial pancreas system and is reaping the rewards from this technology, I just wanted to wish you good luck with this evening’s Adjournment debate. Having been a type 1 for 38 years, I can confirm that this is truly life-changing.”
Before I give way to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), I want to say a word about those who are manufacturing their own artificial pancreases. In some respects, we should celebrate that there are so many young people out there who have the ability to build what is in effect an artificial pancreas, while, at the same time, writing their own algorithms to link them together. That is truly amazing.
I have a background—this is a long time ago—in engineering and I cannot even conceive of doing that, so it is very encouraging that people are doing it. On the other hand, I worry. I have spoken to clinicians and one said to me, “I’ve looked at some of them and they are viable devices, but I worry about people building something that is not reliable and then relying upon it. There could be serious consequences down the line.” But this does show what is possible when people—in their bedrooms or in their mum and dad’s garage—are effectively able to control their own diabetes.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing this debate on using modern technology to deal with diabetes. I declare an interest as a type 2 diabetic. I know other Members in the Chamber have similar ailments.
Northern Ireland has some of the highest levels of diabetes in the whole of the United Kingdom. We have the highest level of type 1 diabetics among children in the whole of the United Kingdom per head of population. That gives an idea of the importance of this debate.
I am very interested in the success of the artificial pancreas given to a teenager in Leeds. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this revolutionises both treatment and quality of life, but that it must be available throughout the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? It must not be a postcode lottery. This must be available as a matter of course for those who fit the protocol. Will the Minister tell us how we can do that across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain—Scotland, Wales, England—and Northern Ireland?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who must be psychic, because that is the very next point I was going to make.
There have been, as the hon. Gentleman says, postcode lottery-style problems with accessing the technology. For example, with FreeStyle Libre, a flash glucose monitoring device, patients in Liverpool are able to get it on prescription if they meet the criteria. That is very welcome, but many patients from outside the area cannot get one, as up to 30% of CCGs do not fund them. There needs to be more work done on that and I know the Government have made an announcement, which I will refer to in a moment.
Thanks to Diabetes UK’s campaign on 14 November, World Diabetes Day, NHS England announced that from April 2019 the FreeStyle Libre will be made available to all who meet the clinical criteria regardless of where they live. That is a very welcome development. I do not think it will apply to Northern Ireland, but I hope a similar policy is adopted in Northern Ireland. Innovation in diabetes technology is evolving rapidly in exciting ways.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. To go back to the postcode lottery of funding, I wonder whether the Minister will talk in her winding-up speech about the work of the Scottish diabetes technology improvement plan, which was supported by £12 million of funding and has resulted in increased insulin pump usage in Scotland. I wonder whether we might emulate that scheme.
The common-sense approach is to look at what is going on elsewhere—in Scotland and in other parts of the world—to get the best of what is available and use it in the most effective way. My hon. Friend is quite right about that.
It is pointless giving type 1 diabetics the latest technologies, such as an artificial pancreas system, if they are not given structured education to support them to use the technology that is available. The limited uptake of educational programmes is a matter of great concern, and I hope the Minister shares that concern. Despite guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, in 2014-15 only 2% of people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes were recorded as having attended structured education courses. For some, that lack of knowledge of the key principles of self-management is a major barrier to the use of technology, because without sufficient education, type 1 diabetics are not equipped to get the best results from the technology available.
This is a very important debate and I am pleased we have time to listen to it. I will have to go and listen to my leader at 5 o’clock, so I apologise if I leave in the middle of the debate. With type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is crucial to diagnose as early as possible. With type 1, which is very different from type 2, it is possible to diagnose very early on in the life of that person. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allude to the differences between lifestyle issues and something that a person normally has when they are born. Surely the answer is testing early, so people can find out and have their educational needs met, and hopefully the product can be available across this great nation of ours.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, who has a background in these matters, has drawn attention to the distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. That is not to say that one is superior to the other, but they are two entirely different conditions brought about by entirely different circumstances. As I said in opening my speech, type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition. Nobody is entirely sure what triggers it in some people, but those in whom it is triggered have some predisposition towards the condition.
I have not quite finished answering the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning). It is particularly important to draw the distinction for young people because, often, young people with type 1 diabetes are bullied very cruelly on the basis that their peers in school accuse them of having brought it on themselves by eating too many sweets or too much sugar. Of course, that is complete nonsense, but that does not stop that kind of bullying taking place.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing the debate and on being a champion for those with diabetes throughout his parliamentary career. Can I take him back to the issue of structured education, which is one of the great pillars of diabetes care? We do not do it well enough and we do not give those with type 1 diabetes enough support. Does he agree that it is important to ensure that all CCGs give proper consideration to who delivers that kind of education? It should not be delivered by anyone other than those with the expertise to deliver it.
Yes. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who does a massive amount of work as chair of the all-party group on diabetes. He is very knowledgeable on the subject and the issues involved, and he is of course right. I think I had already said more or less the same thing as he just said, but obviously I agree with myself and with my right hon. Friend.
Let me move on to the digital solutions, such as apps, which could offer platforms to deliver education in a convenient and personalised format. I should add the rider that mobile apps need to be safe, reliable and accredited to be clinically safe. It worries me that some apps out there are produced commercially but do not contain wholly accurate information. It is unsafe to rely on apps that are not properly accredited and that have not been assessed and evaluated by experts who know what they are talking about.
In addition to the low uptake of structured education, the number of specialists working in diabetes care is falling. Between 2010 and 2012, there was a 3% fall in the number of NHS sites that employ any diabetes specialist nurses. Anyone who has any experience of dealing with young people with diabetes will know that nurse specialists are often the very best possible source of advice.
In the light of this shortage, a national network of centres—possibly between eight and 10 expert diabetes technology centres, supported by virtual clinics—could well be a potential platform for the development of more effective structured education for patients, and for professionals as well. I shall say more about that in a moment. Such a network would be helpful for training future generations of diabetes clinicians effectively to provide artificial pancreases, and in the development and evaluation of new technologies.
One of the problems that type 1 diabetes sufferers tell me that they experience is the merry-go-round of different services that they have to access. They may have a problem with neuropathy, or a foot or eye problem, but they cannot access all those services in one place. Many diabetologists, although brilliant at dealing with the diabetes side of the problem, are not equipped to deal with young people who have, for example, psychological problems. All the services need to be better integrated.
I do apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I will have to slip away straight after this intervention.
One group of people the right hon. Gentleman missed out, although it was not intentional, was parents. When a child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, there is a journey for the parents as well as the child, so there needs to be support for them. I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that diabetes does not pick on certain people from certain areas; it just picks on an individual. Sometimes it is hereditary—a lot of work is being done around the hereditary route—but it is not a choice; it is something that comes on to the family, rather than just the individual.
The right hon. Gentleman is right, and it was an omission on my part not to have acknowledged that. Any parent of a diabetic child has to experience the disease—at second hand, but in very important ways. The younger the child, the more responsibility parents have to take, so that is important. By the way, training and other support for parents needs to be built into the system.
I just want to reinforce what we do for diabetics in Northern Ireland. The surgery that I belong to, in Cuan in Kircubbin, holds diabetic classes twice a year. The staff there do tests on all the diabetics—type 1 and type 2—including for their blood pressure, feet, eyes and all the other things they need to test in the clinics. The surgery then reports back on those tests. For instance, patients will get an eyesight test a month after they have been to the clinic. That shows that there are ways of dealing with this. I am not sure whether surgeries on the United Kingdom mainland do something just as good, but perhaps they should.
There are centres where people can access a lot of services in one place in a similar way to what the hon. Gentleman describes as happening in Northern Ireland.
I attended an interesting conference in Vancouver three or four years ago. I found out—the Minister or one of her colleagues might want to investigate this a bit further—that some of the smaller island states tend to provide all the services in one place because they do not have the capacity or resources to do anything else. It is an accident of geography that they are forced to do that, but it seems to work very well, particularly in some of the Pacific island areas, where there is a massive problem with type 2 diabetes.
I apologise for coming to the debate a bit late. My right hon. Friend may have touched on this; the issue affects not only families, but schools, which need to have a bigger appreciation of the difficulties that kids experience not only with diabetes, but in other areas. I had a private Member’s Bill some years ago that proposed a cluster of schools having a specialist who could spot early problems with children, including diabetes and all sorts of mental health problems. Does he agree that would be helpful?
My hon. Friend may have been late, but he is never behind. Of course I agree with him.
In October, I tabled a written parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, asking how many patients with type 1 diabetes had been referred for psychological support, psychiatric support, and treatment for an eating disorder or diabulimia in the last 12 months. I was told that the information is not held centrally. I then took the matter up with Knowsley clinical commissioning group, but it turns out that it does not hold that information either.
The lack of psychological support for adults and young people with type 1 diabetes is a real and important issue. It was one of the key points in the national service framework for diabetes when that was first brought into being. Most patients on Merseyside, which is my part of the world, still cannot get the support that they need.
Diabulimia, which is a syndrome, rather than a condition, is an eating disorder present among those with type 1 diabetes. It involves the omission of insulin doses, which leads to high blood glucose levels and the body’s cells being deprived of oxygen and energy. The available research suggests that around 40% of females between the ages of 15 and 30 with type 1 diabetes deliberately induce hyperglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis in order to bring about weight loss. Anyone can go on the internet and quite easily find out that if they omit to use their insulin, they can probably lose half a stone in a week, but of course the risks in involved in doing so, including damage to vital organs, should not be taken at all.
According to the charity Diabetics with Eating Disorders, 60% of all females with type 1 diabetes will have experienced a clinically diagnosable eating disorder by the age of 25, and new research suggests that 11% of adolescent males also engage in insulin omission for weight loss. I just want to pause at this point and say a word: although I am describing something that affects type 1 diabetics, it is all part of a wider problem of body image and an obsession with a particular type of weight range. Although diabetics, because of their condition, have a different means of achieving that weight loss, it is an issue that has to be addressed nationally. I know that the fashion industry, for example, has started to make some moves in that direction, but it is a national problem, particularly for many young women who feel that they have to look a certain way to be acceptable. That is, of course, nonsensical, but, nevertheless, it is the way that some of them feel.
Sandie Atkinson, a PhD candidate at Liverpool John Moores University, believes that there is a lot more that clinics can do to reduce the psychological impact of type 1 diabetes and, as a consequence, reduce the prevalence of diabulimia. She says:
“By being empathetic to the issues that impact blood glucose level outside of the realm of an individual’s ability to manage and having realistic expectations of them in light of these uncontrollable factors, individuals might feel less inclined to hide their true condition from Healthcare Professionals. The likelihood of them being more open would undoubtedly be in the best interest of the patients and the NHS at large.”
While conducting her research, those whom Sandie spoke to described the problems that they had in accessing support in clinics. One participant said:
“Eating disorders thrive on secrecy and yet people feel with diabetes they can’t be honest about the expectations of where they are with control so there’s two lots of secrecy there that really does a lot more damage”.
A second interviewee said:
“There’s something about the way that we treat diabetes and I don’t know if it’s maybe because there is some internal stigma, but there’s something needs to be done…I just kind of feel like we’ve got it all wrong…right from the off you should have a psychologist…at least for the first year. I mean the research is all there, suicide risk goes up, self-harm risk goes up, mental health declines…We know this but we’re like, ‘oh yeah, we’ll see you in six months’ time’.”
To progress towards artificial pancreas systems, there are a number of things that the Government must do. The NHS needs to establish a new national framework that encourages innovation. The framework could include some of the following elements: first, a national strategy, with allocated funding, for diabetes technology, allowing all people with type 1 diabetes to self-manage their condition by considering individual medical need and the potential to improve quality of life and psychological aspects of care.
If the NHS were to develop that approach, would it not, as well as giving people much more freedom, autonomy and control over their life, produce massively more data—the strongest commodity in the NHS at the moment—which would mean that we could predict this condition, and look at other possible methods of controlling or treating it?
My hon. Friend is right, and I did highlight earlier that I was unable to get statistics, either centrally or at CCG level. It is important that we collect more data, interpret it properly, and use it to inform policy.
Secondly, there should be mandatory funding accompanying any positive guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as part of a technology appraisal, and a national clinical consensus pathway that covers artificial pancreas technology, with NICE incorporating that into commissioning guidance. That sounds very bureaucratic, but if it was taken seriously, it could have a major positive impact.
Thirdly, there should be progressive procurement policies that recognise the value, within the foundations of artificial pancreas policy, of innovations such as continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pump therapy. We should encourage continuous glucose monitoring with integration capacity, and insulin pumps that have artificial pancreas potential. I would also encourage continued innovation in diabetes technology. If we are to progress towards an artificial pancreas, the foundations need to be better established across the country; that is in addition to the changes I have highlighted. A 2018 audit of the use of insulin pumps showed a positive increase in usage, but also highlighted a wide disparity between specialist services, which we have already mentioned.
Is it not the case that in CCG areas where specialist pumps and continuous glucose monitors are prescribed regularly, the amount of emergency care needed for people with type 1 diabetes is reduced? Not investing in those things makes no financial sense whatever.
My hon. Friend is right. This is not just about technology, important though that is. Anyone with diabetes who manages it well—and technology will help to do that—will have fewer hospital emergency admittances. I do not have the statistics to hand—I am not even sure they exist—but those people will clearly have fewer hospital admittances and fewer complications with their diabetes, and therefore cost the NHS less. As I am sure the Minister will acknowledge, however, the NHS is not very good at doing cost-benefit analysis. It needs to get smarter at it, because the point that my hon. Friend makes is right, not only as regards the support we give to people with type 1 diabetes, but about the cost to the NHS of dealing with the consequences.
My hon. Friend makes the point more clearly and eloquently than I did.
A new device that takes us closer to the artificial pancreas has been developed by Medtronic: the MiniMed 670G. A number of people with type 1 diabetes have started using the system in the UK in a pilot phase before it is rolled out more widely across the country. However, only 15.6% of those with type 1 diabetes are using insulin pumps, and it is potentially a concern that healthcare professionals would be unlikely to recommend an artificial pancreas if someone was not already using a pump and continuous glucose monitoring. If the issues to do with NHS access to today’s type 1 diabetes technology can be addressed, a path can be cleared towards adoption of the artificial pancreas.
We need to ensure that people living with diabetes are equipped with the skills to self-manage. That would support patients in using current technologies effectively, and ultimately in using artificial pancreas systems. Structured education is central to enabling people living with type 1 diabetes to best manage their condition through effective use of monitors and insulin pumps. The NHS can support type 1 diabetics to do that by increasing the provision and uptake of diabetes education. To do that, it needs to make diabetes education courses more accessible and convenient, possibly through digital solutions.
A recent survey by Dexcom revealed that more than three quarters of people with diabetes suffer from stress, anxiety attacks or bouts of deep depression. While healthcare teams help, and teach people how to manage their blood glucose levels, type 1 diabetes is largely a self-managed condition. The NHS needs to ensure that the resources and community support that people with type 1 diabetes require are well advertised, well recognised, well understood and well invested in. I believe we are on the threshold of being able to make type 1 diabetes not a thing of the past, but a thing that can be well and easily managed, and I hope the Minister will take these words seriously and do everything she can to advance that day.
It is an honour to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), who has been an hon. Friend for almost 30 years and is a great champion for those with diabetes, in particular type 1 diabetes.
I declare an interest, as a type 2 bordering on type 1 diabetic. The usual suspects are here, including my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who has popped out but I know will be back. The Government Benches are empty, apart from the Minister and the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), because Conservative Members are listening to the most famous type 1 diabetic in the world, if we discount Halle Berry and Mary Tyler Moore. I admire so much the way in which the Prime Minister does her job, with all the demands on her, as a type 1 diabetic—we do not even notice, and that is because of the technology that has been developed and the way in which she conducts herself.
Indeed. Before anyone else jumps up with another name, I include all diabetics in what I am saying.
The Prime Minister and others such as myself talk about diabetes, and we are not cowering in corners; we are debating it openly. Because of technological advances, we are able to do our jobs and continue with our lives in a way that was not possible when diabetes was first discovered 100 years or so ago.
The first artificial pancreas, which was developed by Sir George Alberti through funding from Diabetes UK, was the size of a filing cabinet. Madam Deputy Speaker, can you imagine walking around with an artificial pancreas of that size? We should always acknowledge the research and innovation of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley spoke and the power of science to change people’s lives.
I want to give a few examples from my own city of Leicester of the work that has been done on diabetes. There is the work done by Professor Kamlesh Khunti and Melanie Davies of the University of Leicester; my own general practitioner, Professor Azhar Farooqi, who diagnosed me with diabetes—had I not been diagnosed, I might not be standing here today, because I did not know what the symptoms were—and Professor Joan Taylor from De Montfort University, who began developing her own version of the artificial pancreas.
It was very interesting to learn from my right hon. Friend’s speech about all the other clever people—probably much cleverer than all of us here—who have been able to develop their own artificial pancreas. Not all of them will be able to fly, so to speak, but it is amazing that people are putting their minds to it, and Professor Joan Taylor at De Montfort has done the same. There is also Professor Hovorka of Cambridge University who, like George Alberti, was funded by Diabetes UK in developing the artificial pancreas. These people deserve our respect and admiration for what they do, because they spend day after day trying to make the medical breakthrough that will help people and save so many lives. I want to thank them for what they have done, because their work has enabled us to get to the position we are in today.
There are also the private companies. Members do of course criticise, as we are entitled to do, the profits made by drugs companies. The Minister will know because she has to sign the cheques—perhaps she does not sign the cheques, but she sends them to the Treasury to get them signed—when the bills come through for the artificial pancreases and the metformins or Glucophages and all the other things that we take. The cost has gone up and there is no doubt that the drugs companies do make very big profits, but they should be commended for putting back so much of their profits into research and development. That is something that the Government cannot do, but it is something that those companies do every single day.
In acknowledging the huge cost of drugs, we also have to acknowledge what companies such as Novo Nordisk do. I declare an interest in relation to Novo Nordisk, because it has worked with the all-party group on diabetes, which I chair, for a number of years. Roche Diabetes Care is another such company, and there are many more. There are so many of them that I cannot name them all, but they have all been involved, and they will all invest and research until the breakthrough comes.
We know from FreeStyle Libre what Abbott has done. I remember the former Prime Minister—it is of course based in David Cameron’s old constituency—telling me five years ago about Abbott and the work it was doing on FreeStyle Libre. Now, thanks to the decision of Ministers, FreeStyle Libre is available, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley has said. That is why, when we have that breakthrough, it is vital that such a facility and such equipment is available to all, irrespective of where they live.
We did not have access to FreeStyle Libre in Leicester, even though we have so many experts at Leicester University and De Montfort, until the decision taken by the Government. Actually, we will not get access to it until next April, so my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) and others will have constituents who still want to get FreeStyle Libre, but cannot do so. We do not want that to happen for those who need pumps and artificial pancreases, because it is vital that they get such equipment straightaway. If they do not, it will affect their lives.
What my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley said about wellbeing or mental health and diabetes was interesting. That is something that people very rarely recognise, and I have only myself recognised it, having been a sufferer, in for the past two years or so. They do not actually know it because they think it is part of their condition. For type 1 diabetics, it is even worse. We can just have our pills—I take six in the morning and three at night; some people take more—but the fact is that they live with the injection of insulin for this condition for the rest of their lives.
The deputy leader of the Labour party, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson)—obviously, he is not in his place today, because he has other things to do—has reversed his type 2 diabetes. Anyone who sees him in the Division Lobbies will know that he looks a completely different man from the person I knew when I voted for him to be the deputy leader, because he has adopted the Pioppi diet and changed his lifestyle. He does all the things that I do not, because I do not manage my diabetes particularly well. However, people cannot do that with type 1—it is with them forever. The right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), who obviously has gone to Committee Room 14, mentioned that there is that fundamental difference. Sometimes when we talk about the thousands —or the millions, now—who have type 2 diabetes as opposed to type 1, we talk about people changing their lifestyle, their diet or their wellbeing, but that does not apply to the type 1s.
Of course. There is the possibility of doing that—as we do with cancer, for example, which is a much more emotive illness. Of course, people can die from diabetes complications. My mother died from diabetes complications. What I am noticing from the correspondence that I get as chair of the all-party group is that people are writing to say that their relatives have died of diabetes complications and that clinicians are now putting that on death certificates and, in some cases, voiding insurance. I had a very interesting meeting with an insurance company recently that wanted to void the insurance of a particular individual because they had not notified it that they had type 2 diabetes. I asked its chief executive, “If you cross a road and you are knocked down by a car, and you have type 2 diabetes but didn’t know it and had not notified the company, would you still have your insurance voided?” and he said, “Yes,” which is outrageous. The implications are huge. This is a wide area, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I do not want to try your patience by talking about the whole, global aspects of diabetes. We could be here all night. Forget about the 7 o’clock Adjournment motion—we would be here forever, but actually, we need to be specific about type 1.
In answer to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sandy Martin), perhaps there is a case for doing what he suggested, because “type 1” and “type 2” are still very technical, whereas with cancer, there is the type of cancer that someone is suffering from. People may not understand that, so it is worth exploring, and we could certainly do that at the all-party group. The vice-chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton, is here—we will be able to look at it—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley is a frequent visitor. Let us see what we can do about it in future.
I want to end with three asks of the Minister through the good offices of my right hon. Friend. We have talked about CCGs, but we do not have the capacity in CCGs for diabetes champions. We still do not know how many specialist diabetic nurses there are in regions or even in constituencies. The hon. Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage) is a Health Minister, so I am sure that everyone will jump about when she goes back to her constituency, but if she asks the question, “Do we have a list of specialist diabetic nurses?” the answer is no. Do we have a list of those doctors such as David Unwin and others who are doing incredible work on diabetes—even if that work is not shared elsewhere? The answer is no.
In answers to parliamentary questions, I have a list of “don’t knows” coming back from Ministers. That is no criticism of the Minister—it is just that Ministers do not know. They do not keep that information centrally. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley and I, as former Ministers, know that we had to sign PQs like that, too, when we just did not have the answers, because the information is not kept centrally. However, some of this information should be—there should be information about who the specialist nurses are—so could we get the CCGs together in some way to talk to them about the issues raised by my right hon. Friend, because lives are time-limited if they do not have access to the equipment that he is talking about?
The second issue is that the Government must be prepared to make a commitment, although not to providing additional funding, because the NHS is stretched. Where private sector companies, such as Roche and others, are investing and doing research that will benefit the public, is there any way to assist them by providing them with greater capacity to research, whether through encouragement, incentives or some other means? We need to do that because we do not have the money to do the research ourselves.
The third issue concerns personnel in the Department. I was astonished to learn that the Secretary of State had still not met the diabetes tsar, Professor Jonathan Valabhji. I tabled a question asking when he last met him, and it turned out he had never met the very expert appointed by the Government to assist in these matters. He is an outstanding diabetes tsar—probably the best the country has ever had—a frequent visitor to our meetings and a professor at St Mary’s, but he has not met the Secretary of State. Please will the Minister talk to her colleagues and ask that one of them meet with Professor Valabhji? It would be helpful if it was the Secretary of State, though, and would be of some assistance to him.
My final point concerns that made by the hon. Member for Strangford and my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley. Diabetics such as myself—the same applies to type 1 diabetics—have to see nine different professionals, but we see them on different days, at different times and in different places. When we have our bloods done, there should be someone to help us with structured education, which is vital—we should not be made to book another appointment for another day when perhaps we cannot make it; there should be someone to check our eyes, too; and all this at the same time.
In Leicester, we are developing the first diabetes village, where a patient can do the lot on a Saturday morning—all eight of the main functions, including wellbeing, mental health and lifestyle. If someone with type 2 diabetes goes to the doctor in Doha and gets a prescription, before they get their medication, they are sent to a gym to make sure they make the necessary lifestyle changes before their medication kicks in. They have medical centres there with the panoply of services diabetics need.
Tomorrow, we will be holding an international diabetes summit in Committee Room 14, if it is vacated in time. In that respect, my message to Conservative Members is: get on with it, as the Prime Minister would say, and finish it off tonight—I do not have a vote in that election—so that we can have Committee Room 14 back. The Diabetes Minister, the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), and people from China, Denmark and Italy, are coming to share their experiences, and type 1 diabetes will be high on the agenda. The more of these meetings we hold in this place, the better it is to keep diabetes on the agenda.
Once again, I thank my right hon. Friend for securing this debate and for making sure we talk about these issues, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton, too, for her last debate on diabetes. We should keep putting in for these debates to make sure this is the highest possible priority for the Government.
I thank the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) for his incredible work highlighting the importance of the right treatment for type 1 diabetes and of making use of technology in that treatment. I also thank him for giving us this opportunity to debate the issue. He has made some incredibly valuable suggestions, as indeed has the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). I have listened with great interest and will carefully consider some of their fascinating suggestions.
Supporting the rising number of people with diabetes is one of the major clinical challenges of the 21st century, and improving outcomes and care quality for those living with, or at risk of, diabetes are key priorities for the Government. The right hon. Member for Knowsley correctly highlighted the role that modern technologies, when properly used, can play in the care of people with type 1 diabetes. Key to managing it is, of course, monitoring and controlling glucose levels, and—as he explained in great depth—a number of different technologies are available for that purpose, including glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, artificial pancreas devices are an emerging technology that combines continuous glucose monitoring with insulin pumps. One system, the Medtronic 670G system, which he mentioned, was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and a European licence is being pursued.[Official Report, 23 January 2019, Vol. 653, c. 3MC.] Large randomised clinical studies of similar systems are now beginning and several are expected to come to the market in the next five years. Teams in the UK are leading some of that work.
The right hon. Member for Leicester East talked about the funding of research on diabetes. The Department funds such research through the National Institute for Health Research. In the last five years, the NIHR has awarded just over £144 million for work on diabetes, and 346 active projects are taking place across the NIHR infrastructure. One of them involves the closed-loop insulin delivery system to which he referred.
Giving people access to diabetes technology as swiftly as possible is, of course, a priority. Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said recently:
“Tens of thousands of people with Type 1 diabetes across the country will benefit from life changing glucose monitors on the NHS.”
The announcement referred to the FreeStyle Libre, a device that the right hon. Member for Leicester East also mentioned. NHS England will ensure that flash glucose monitoring is available on prescription to all patients who qualify for it in line with current recommendations. From April 2019, all qualifying patients will be able to receive it from their local GP or diabetes team.
The right hon. Member for Knowsley talked a lot about structured education and psychological support. In line with existing NICE guidelines, structured education should be offered to all patients within 12 months of diagnosis of diabetes. As he said, reported attendance levels at structured education courses have historically been low, but they continue to increase, and this year alone NHS England has invested £10.5 million to improve attendance by people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
May I pursue another point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth)? I understand that the NHS is still paying providers, even though people do not turn up. That is a big problem. We need to look at the providers. There is a reason why people do not turn up. We need to change the system in order to make them more able to do so.
That is an excellent point. The purpose of the £10.5 million that I have just mentioned is to improve attendance. It is clearly necessary to look at the way in which the service is provided and at who is providing it, and to ensure that it is provided in a way that will make people attend.
The right hon. Member for Knowsley spoke about improving care for those with diabetes and eating disorders, including what is often referred to as diabulimia. I think he will be pleased to hear that NHS England is supporting two pilots to test, trial and evaluate the effect of integrated diabetes and mental health pathways for the identification, assessment and treatment of diabulimia.
We will continue to create a health system that supports innovation, promotes the testing and development of health technology, and ensures that the best innovations are used so that patients can benefit as quickly as possible.
Question put and agreed to.