The cost to the NHS
of prescribing drugs to treat diabetes has risen to almost £1bn a year, as the number of people who are diagnosed with the diseases has risen sharply alongside the surge in obesity.
Last year, the NHS spent £956.7 million on drugs that were prescribed to diabetics by GPs, nurses and pharmacists. That sum represents around 10%of the cost of all prescriptions issued by NHS primary care services in 2015-16.
The NHS now spends more on medication for type 1 and type 2 diabetes than for any other aliment. Across the UK, the number of diabetes has risen to more than four million, a figure that has increased by 65% over the last ten years. In those ten years, the cost of diabetes drugs has almost doubled. The £956.7 million that was spent was a huge increase on the £513.9 million spent on the drugs in 2005-06 which, at the time, was just 6% of the NHS’s total drugs bill.
Diabetes is thought to cost the NHS about £10 billion, once the cost of treatment, including amputation and hospitalisations for life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks, is included.
Last year a total of 49.7 million items were prescribed for diabetes, compared to the 27.1 million a decade ago, when just 53 items were prescribed for every 100 people. Today, 53 items are prescribed for every 91 people.
89.1% of diabetics have type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked with people’s lifestyles, especially their weight. However, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. It often emerges in childhood and those who suffer have to inject themselves with insulin twice a day.
Helen Donovan, the Royal College of Nursing’s health professional lead, said: “These stark figures show the need for a greater focus on preventing type 2 diabetes. Encouraging healthier lifestyles would not only save the NHS money, it would improve countless lives.”
Donovan stated cuts to nursing support for diabetics meant that some patients were not getting the help that they needed to manage their illness. “This is bad for the health service’s finances but more importantly it can be devastating for patients,” she added.
Diabetics are more likely to have a stroke or suffer from heart disease and develop a range of other illnesses.
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