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UK faces diabetes ‘tipping point’ with a million more people at risk, warns charity

UK faces diabetes ‘tipping point’ with a million more people at risk, warns charity
‘We’re at the tipping point of a public health emergency and need action today to stop it in its tracks’

Almost one in 10 people in the UK could be living with diabetes by 2030 – the equivalent of 5.5 million people, a charity has warned.

The huge rise in affected people will mean millions more people at risk of “devastating complications” including heart attacks, kidney failure, stroke, amputation and blindness, Diabetes UK said.

Chris Askew, the charity’s chief executive, said the country is “at the tipping point of a public health emergency” and action is needed “to stop it in its tracks”.

Unless something is done to stem the rise in cases, Diabetes UK estimates there could be more than 87,000 hospital admissions a year in England by 2030.

This would be an increase of 14 per cent from 2020-21 and more than 50 per cent higher than the figure for 2006-07.

The data is based on Public Health England and the Association of Public Health Observatories’ diabetes prevalence projection models.

Additional analysis from Diabetes UK also suggests one in three UK adults – more than 17 million people – could be at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 2030.

The charity is calling for action on several fronts, including enrolling more people in the NHS diabetes prevention programme.

The programme aims to help people reach a healthy weight, learn to eat better and make regular exercise a part of life.

Diabetes UK also wants people who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes to go into remission where possible through measures such as tailored weight-loss advice or gastric band surgery.

It also wants to see access to weight loss programmes expanded and assurances that people with all types of diabetes will get their regular NHS checks to cut the risk of complications.

At the moment, almost 4.1 million people in the UK are diagnosed with either Type 1 diabetes or Type 2, which is heavily linked to obesity and can also be influenced by age, ethnic background and family history.

It is thought a further 850,000 people are living with Type 2 diabetes but do not know it.

Mr Askew said: “Every diagnosis of diabetes is life-changing.

“The relentlessness of the condition, and the ever-present fear of serious and life-altering complications, is a lifelong reality for millions of families across the UK.

“It’s a sobering thought then that, if we don’t act today, hundreds of thousands more will face the life-changing news that they have Type 2 diabetes.

“We’re at the tipping point of a public health emergency and need action today to stop it in its tracks.

“It doesn’t have to be this way – we know that with the right care and support, diabetes complications can be avoided and cases of Type 2 diabetes can be put into remission, or prevented altogether.

“We don’t want our prediction to become a reality. What we need to see is the will, grit and determination from government to halt this crisis in its tracks, and improve the future health of our nation for generations to come.”

Diabetes UK has launched a new TV campaign, This Is Diabetes, featuring families across the UK living with the condition.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity at NHS England, said: “Diabetes can have a marked effect on peoples lives, with higher risks of heart attacks, strokes, limb loss, many of the common forms of cancer, and more severe outcomes with Covid-19 – but, thanks to better NHS treatment and care, the outlook for people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes has improved considerably over the last few decades.

“As part of its Long Term Plan, the NHS is already delivering the world’s largest Type 2 diabetes prevention programme to support people reduce their risk of developing the condition, as well as piloting the use of low calorie diets in those who have recently had a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in order to achieve remission.”

Additional reporting by agencies