Cases of diabetes in the U.K. have soared over the past decade, with the number living with the condition now up a worrying 60%. Since 2005, there have been an additional 1.2 million people diagnosed with the disease. Diabetes UK, the charity who revealed the figures, is calling for more effective care and improved preventative measures to stop people from going on to develop more debilitating and costly conditions.
“Over the past decade, the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has increased by over 1 million people, which is the equivalent of the population of a small country such as Cyprus,” said Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK. “With a record number of people now living with diabetes in the UK, there is no time to waste – the government must act now.”
The new figures show that around 5% of the population in the U.K., roughly 3.3 million people, now live with the condition, and yet more than a third of patients don’t get access to the recommended eight care process. This includes yearly check-ups of blood pressure, cholesterol, foot surveillance, and body mass index, among others indications of health. According to the charity, this increases the risk that people will develop further complications that ultimately cost the National Health Service (NHS) more money.
“Diabetes already costs the NHS nearly £10 billion [$15 billion] a year, and 80 percent of this is spent on managing avoidable complications,” explains Young. This includes problems such as stroke, heart disease and even amputations. In fact, there are thought to be 135-foot amputations each week in the U.K. due to diabetes, and diabetes medication now accounts for 10% of the NHS drugs bill.
Around 90% of the new diagnoses are Type 2 diabetes, the main cause of which is obesity. And the problem is not limited to the U.K., as more and more people around the globe are being diagnosed every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, 9.3% of people in the United States have diabetes, accounting for 29.1 million people and costing an estimated $176 billion (£112 billion) in direct medical costs. It’s not just a problem for the West either, as there has even been a shift in developing countries, with the death rate of diseases like malaria and tuberculosis dropping, while diabetes is on the rise.
Diabetes UK is calling on the NHS to provide more preventative care to save money in the long run. “The costs of treating diabetes will continue to spiral out of control and threaten to bankrupt the NHS,” says Young. “The NHS must prioritise providing better care, along with improved and more flexible education options, for people with diabetes now, and give them the best possible chance of living long and healthy lives. Now is the time for action.”