NHS to identify rare diabetes in thousands of people

By Editor
1st September 2021
Monogenic diabetes, NHS NHS England Training

A unique type of diabetes is set to be detected in thousands of people who are oblivious to the fact they are living with condition.

In the upcoming months, NHS staff will be trained to genetically test whether or not an individual has monogenic diabetes.

The training scheme will help hundreds of healthcare professionals spot the rare form of diabetes, with some even becoming experts on the condition.

More than 12,000 people in England are believed to have monogenic diabetes, which can be difficult to manage if left unnoticed.

People who fail to detect monogenic diabetes early often find it difficult to control their glucose levels. If monogenic diabetes is left untreated for a long period of time it can cause blindness, amputations and increases a person’s risk of having a heart attack.

Individuals can take medication or adjust their diet to better manage their condition, regulate their glucose levels and to avoid having frequent insulin injections.

The new genetic testing can also indicate whether or not children will go on to progress the condition, by analysing if they have inherited the affected gene.

The rare condition makes up one in 50 diabetes cases, but it is much harder to recognise and is often difficult to differentiate from type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Going forward, the NHS is dedicated to boosting access to genomic testing and to enhancing diabetes care across England.

Professor Partha Kar, NHS National Specialty Advisor for Diabetes, said: “We are already making progress against the goals set out in the NHS Long Term Plan for better diabetes care, and the rollout of this programme will mean more patients across the country will benefit from access to specialist genetic testing and optimised treatment.

“Monogenic diabetes is difficult to diagnose, and we will more easily be able to identify those who need to be referred for genetic testing by training teams on monogenic diabetes in each Trust.”

He added: “The NHS has long been at the forefront of clinical advances in care for major diseases like diabetes – being able to spot the condition from birth is just another example of how we are helping people with the condition to live longer and healthier lives.”

Teams of monogenic diabetes experts will be formed across the NHS trusts in England to improve the lives of those living with condition.

The scheme, run by the NHS England Diabetes Programme and the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, will train 280 healthcare workers by providing remote training to help hospital teams spot people who could have the condition.

Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England and Senior Responsible Officer for Genomics in the NHS, said: “I’m delighted we’re rolling out this initiative which will no doubt be welcomed by the thousands of patients who’ll benefit from being able to access genetic testing for monogenic diabetes and the personalised treatment interventions.

“The NHS continues to lead the way in using the latest genomic technology and this is a great example of how genomics can help diagnose, inform treatments and deliver improved outcomes for patients. And it shows how the NHS is delivering on the commitments set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to increase access to genomic testing.”

Head of Care at Diabetes UK, Dan Howarth said: “The rollout of this programme is a significant and hugely positive development.

“It will help ensure people will get the most appropriate treatment and support for this rare type of diabetes, meaning blood sugar levels can be better managed, and the risks of developing the devastating complications of diabetes can be reduced. And as this form of diabetes runs in families, other family members can be informed of the symptoms to look out for, to enable timely treatment and support.”

He added: “More understanding of the rarer types of diabetes is crucial, and Diabetes UK is investing in research which will hopefully give us a greater understanding of these conditions.

“This new programme builds on the work of the NHS Diabetes Programme and NHS Long Term Plan, which have led to improvements in care for people with all types of diabetes and in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes. This work must be continued and built upon as the NHS recovers from the pandemic.”

Health Minister, Nadine Dorries said: “We are dedicated to improving care for those with diabetes – a commitment we have built on through the NHS Long Term Plan – and this latest cutting-edge innovation will have a positive impact on thousands of patients and families.

Photo by sturti

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