SHOCK figures today reveal up to 24,000 people with diabetes die unnecessarily every year.
Ministers have branded the death toll “unacceptable” and have ordered the NHS to make immediate improvements to provide the “right care at the right time”. Experts say most deaths can be avoided if diabetes is better managed.
A report published today by the National Diabetes Audit for England finds women aged 15-34 with diabetes are nine times more likely to die young than those without the condition.
It calculates two young people in the age group could be suffering an avoidable death every week but three quarters of unnecessary fatalities are among diabetics aged over 65.
An estimated 70,000-75,000 people with diabetes die in England every year – accounting for about 15 per cent of all deaths.
Most deaths are related to the condition – diabetes can cause serious heart and kidney problems, as well as amputation of limbs and loss of eyesight.
But today’s report said that people are dying too early due to poor management of their condition – among them failures to receive basic diabetic health checks on the NHS, having unhealthy lifestyles and not taking medication properly.
It argues that educating people in managing their condition reduces the risk they will suffer dangerously high or low blood sugar, which increases the risk of complications but can also lead directly to death.
The report finds that there is a strong link between deprivation and increased death rates, with those aged under 65 from poorer areas twice as likely to die than those from more affluent areas. Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “These figures are incredibly alarming as there is no reason why people with diabetes cannot live long and healthy lives if they receive the right care and support to help them manage their condition.
“Self-management is very important, but it is also vital that people with diabetes receive the care they need to help them manage their condition in the first place.
“We know that half of people with Type 2 and more than two thirds of people with Type 1 diabetes are not receiving the care they need to stay healthy, so it is imperative we take action now to stop even more lives being needlessly cut short.”
Audit lead clinician Bob Young said: “For the first time ever we have a reliable measure of the huge impact of diabetes on early death.
“Many of these early deaths could be prevented. The rate of new diabetes is increasing every year. So, if there are no changes, the impact of diabetes on national mortality will increase.
“Doctors, nurses and the NHS working in partnership with people who suffer from diabetes should be able to improve these grim statistics.”
Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “The audit has revealed a shocking variation in care with devastating consequences for the lives of those with diabetes.
“This snapshot of NHS diabetes care reveals an unacceptable death toll, a death toll that can be cut by delivering the right care at the right time.
“Armed with the results of this audit, I expect the NHS to learn from the best.
“It’s not rocket science – integrated health care can help people manage their diabetes, stay well and out of hospital.”
Diabetes UK has compiled a list of 15 essential health checks and services and there are nine checks recommended on the NHS.
The nine include blood sugar control, cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index and eye and foot examinations to check for complications.
But the audit found that only around half of people with Type 2 diabetes and less than a third with Type 1 diabetes, which usually develops in childhood, receive all nine checks.
Some 290,000 people in the UK have Type 1 diabetes and another 2.6 million are diagnosed with Type 2 but a further 850,000 are believed to be undiagnosed.