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Diabetes UK says NHS is restricting vital test strips

By Editor
6th April 2017

The number of people in the UK who are not receiving essential pieces of blood monitoring kit from the NHS has gone up in four years, according to Diabetes UK.

The charity ran a UK-wide survey and found that one in four people have experienced problems with getting test strips from the health service, when previously in 2013 it was one in five.

The Testing Times report also discovered that 52 per cent of people who had reported problems in receiving tests strips had type 1 diabetes, which Diabetes UK has said is “concerning” because NICE recommends all adults with the condition should routinely self-monitor blood glucose levels, testing at least four times a day.

The poll has also shown that people with type 2 say they were advised they did not need to test their blood sugar. However, they should be measuring their glucose levels if they are using insulin and/or medication that can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).

Colin Frampton, an 86 year old pensioner from Winchester in Hampshire, was paying for test strips out of his pension before he contacted Diabetes UK.

His GP surgery had restricted his allowance to 50 test strips for 12 months – enough to test his blood glucose only once a week. After challenging his GP surgery, his prescription for test strips was increased.

Mr Frampton said: “I’ve had type 2 diabetes for nine years and take it very seriously. I’ve had to deal with lots of other health issues over a number of years including being blind and in a wheelchair.

“Keeping on top of my blood glucose levels by testing regularly, at least a couple of times a week, means I can reduce the risk of my health deteriorating even further. It’s shocking that some doctors don’t see the importance of regular testing; if I see my blood sugar is high, I can do something about it. If I didn’t challenge my GP, I’d still have to take money out of my pension to help me manage my condition.”

Meanwhile, Dr Stephen Lawrence, clinical lead for diabetes for the Royal College of GP, has responded to the new report.

He said: “GPs are highly trained and skilled professionals who will always make the best decision for the individual patient in front of us.But at the same time, £24m of the scarce NHS budget is spent on diabetes care every day and it would be irresponsible not to make the most appropriate use of limited resources.

“The benefits of self-monitoring blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes is unclear and the latest guidance from NICE specifies that the majority of patients do not need to self test.

“Therefore it would be inappropriate to issue self test strips as a ‘one size fits all’, especially when advances in medical treatment and technology are constantly emerging, particularly with newer forms of oral medications that do not cause hypoglycaemia.

“GPs in Tower Hamlets recently managed to dramatically reduce inappropriate use of blood glucose self-monitoring kits among patients with Type 2 diabetes without negatively affecting their health. If this  was applied nationally, it is estimated that we could safely and responsibly prevent unnecessary testing in 340,000 people, as well as saving £21.8m of the NHS budget.”

Diabetes UK is calling for strong action and guidance at a national level across the UK to make sure that everyone with diabetes gets the kit they need to self-manage effectively.

Diabetes UK’s policy manager Nikki Joule, said: “These short sighted cost savings cause people real anguish and potential financial distress. It also means people are struggling to manage their diabetes which can lead to serious consequences for their health, so we urge people to challenge restrictions and refusals.

As well as being vital for people with type 1 diabetes, anyone with type 2 diabetes can benefit from testing so should be supported to do so if it is helping them to better manage their condition.

“Local policies should allow sufficient choice and flexibility for individual circumstances to be taken into account when prescribing test strips and meters for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.”

Comments (1)

  1. anne phillips says:

    Dr Lawrence makes some excellent points. I think people living with diabetes and healthcare professionals alike need to ensure they make the best possible use of NHS resources and giving the impression that all people with type 2 diabetes mellitus would benefit from blood glucose monitoring is not an accurate reflection of the situation.

    For people with type 2 diabetes mellitus who are not using insulin therapy blood glucose monitoring should only be an option with a clear purpose agreed by the person living with diabetes and their healthcare professionals (which I believe is usually the case) too many individuals in the past have been given blood glucose meters and are endlessly testing with no change in treatment.

    The NHS does not have a bottomless pit of money and we all need to be educated in the correct use of services and realise that sensible conversations need to take place across political parties of how we move forward to protect the NHS for future generations.

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