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Health: Diabetes

Volume 734: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2012


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to act on the National Diabetes Audit Mortality Analysis 2007–08, published by the NHS Information Centre, which estimated that up to 24,000 deaths from diabetes per year could be avoided by the condition being better managed.

My Lords, we are working with the National Diabetes Information Service and National Health Service organisations to ensure that local services have the audit data for their own areas to show how they compare with others and where improvements can be made. NHS Diabetes has a suite of tools that can be used to help drive improvements and reduce avoidable deaths.

I thank the Minister for his response. Diabetes UK estimates that about 26 per cent of the 450,000 residents in nursing and care homes in England have diabetes. Care home residents are a highly vulnerable group of people and, without regular screening for diabetes, they are at an increased risk of complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation. What are the Government doing to ensure that residents in care homes receive the appropriate screening that they need for diabetes?

My Lords, much will depend on the way in which primary care engages with those in social care to ensure that the residents of care homes, who need diabetes care management, receive it properly. We very much want to see that joined-up commissioning arise from the reforms that we are currently in the process of debating in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord makes a very good point. We have many tools at our disposal. There is no shortage of guidelines in this area. Much will depend on the training of care home staff and a lot of work is going on under the aegis of the National Clinical Director for Diabetes in this area.

My Lords, does the Minister agree with the 15 checks or services promoted by Diabetes UK that every person with diabetes should receive or have access to? In particular, does he agree that they should have access to high-quality, structured education, firmly embedded in the NHS, based on a programme such as that for type 1 diabetics, promoting dose adjustment for normal eating?

My Lords, the answer to my noble friend is yes. Those checks and services are firmly supported by NICE, by the National Service Framework and by the NICE quality standard. I also agree with him that structured education is fundamental if we are to ensure that patients can self-manage. A number of tools are available for that. He mentioned one for type 1 diabetics that has the acronym DAFNE—dose adjustment for normal eating—and for type 2 diabetics there is DESMOND—diabetes education and self-management for ongoing and newly diagnosed.

Can the Minister please tell the House what levers the Government will have in the new NHS to ensure an increase in the use of insulin pumps for the control of diabetes in children, given that the pump appears at face value to be expensive, but as a long-term investment it is very cost-effective because it results in far better control of diabetes and a lower incidence of hypoglycaemic attacks, which is important for children at school?

My Lords, we know that insulin pump therapy can make a huge difference to glycaemic control and the quality of life in some people. It is not appropriate for everyone, as the noble Baroness will, I am sure, recognise. We know that much more has to be done to improve the uptake of insulin pumps in line with NICE recommendations. The NHS operating framework for this year highlights the need to do more to make these devices available. The NHS Technology Adoption Centre has published guidance to support NHS organisations in the adoption of these devices and I know that the National Clinical Director for Diabetes, Dr Rowan Hillson, chairs a working group focusing on the uptake of insulin pumps.

Does my noble friend agree that one of the greatest problems for those suffering from diabetes—particularly type 2 diabetes—and for those looking after them, is that they are not actually taking up the education that is available so that they can learn how to live their lives to get a better result from their illness?

I agree with my noble friend. We are firmly of the view that education is a major action area for primary care clinicians, and for those in secondary care too, if we are to avoid unplanned admissions to hospital, which are unpleasant for patients and very costly for the NHS.

Does the Minister agree—I am sure that he does—that the recommendation that there should be more comprehensive and effective preventive care is an important part of the report, and that it is important to highlight the link between obesity and this illness? Does he agree that it is now high time for the Government to introduce calorific labelling of alcohol products so that people know the number of calories they take in when they drink, and to stop citing the European Union as the reason why they are not doing it?

The noble Lord is to be congratulated on bringing me back to the very important subject of the labelling of alcoholic drinks. I hope that the House will feel that he was a little unfair in blaming the Government for the line that they have taken on this. As the noble Lord knows, labelling is an area that is very largely a matter of EU competence. However, he is right that type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity and insufficient physical activity. We would like to see businesses use a more consistent front-of-pack nutrition labelling approach than has been achieved in the past, particularly with food.

Will the noble Earl recognise another acronym, the DAFNE programme, and give greater government support to rolling out such a programme, as illustrated by the noble Lord, Lord Rennard? Will be also reply to the Danish Government, who have made diabetes a priority under their presidency for the coming six months? What is being done with our Danish colleagues to promote a better understanding of diabetes and its treatment?

The noble Lord is right to emphasise the role of DAFNE. The 2011-12 NHS operating framework signals the need to commission patient-structured education for people newly diagnosed with diabetes, and at appropriate points in their life as their condition progresses. I do not have a briefing on the dialogue with our Danish colleagues on their programme of action, but I will write to the noble Lord on that.