Opinion Former Article

Diabetes UK: 20,000 children with diabetes risk future amputation and blindness

Leading health charity Diabetes UK warns that more than 85 per cent of children and young people with diabetes (20,000)1 in England and Wales risk amputation and blindness in later life unless urgent steps are taken to help improve their diabetes management. To help tackle this problem, the charity has issued a major research call for interventions to improve diabetes care and management, and is encouraging applications aimed at children.

According to the largest ever paediatric diabetes audit, the National Diabetes Paediatric Audit2, published today by the NHS Information Centre3, 85.5 per cent of people with diabetes under 25 have dangerously high blood glucose levels, putting them at increased risk of devastating long term complications including blindness, amputation, heart disease and kidney failure.

The audit also shows that the highest proportion of people with dangerous blood glucose levels were those aged 12 to 24. In addition, only 498 out of 12,204 people in this age group (four per cent) received all the eight basic annual health checks4 including blood glucose, foot and eye checks.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “The results of this audit cannot leave us in any doubt that urgent action is needed to improve diabetes care and management for children and young people. Of all people with diabetes, teenagers have the worst control which can partly be explained by the high rate of not attending clinic and poor transitional care from paediatric to adult services where many are ‘lost’ in the system.

“As part of our major research call, Diabetes UK is calling on healthcare professionals and researchers to submit innovative research proposals that will specifically look into overcoming barriers to patient engagement such as teenage non-attendance or projects to help patients achieve good blood glucose control. Our investment in research has the potential to help health services develop care which caters for the very complex and specific needs of younger people. Giving them the start they need to manage their diabetes for the rest of their lives means a generation of children do not have to face a future of devastating health complications.”

Dr Tabitha Randell, Consultant in Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, said: “Diabetes is difficult to deal with at any age, but it is particularly tricky during teenage years. The hormones that put the body through puberty make good diabetes control at lot harder to achieve. Add to this the need that young people have to develop their independence and the desire not be different from their friends can mean diabetes is something that they would prefer to ignore. We need to develop strategies to work with young people and their families to help support them through this and allow diabetes to be part of their lives rather than either ruling it out or pretending it is not there at all. It is hoped by encouraging young people to work in partnership with their families and their diabetes teams, we may be able to improve things for the future.”

The National Diabetes Paediatric Audit will be available from 9:30am on Wednesday 13 July at www.ic.nhs.uk/nda

For more information about research at Diabetes UK, visit www.diabetes.org.uk/research

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For further media information please contact Maria Lam on 020 7424 1166 or the Diabetes UK Media Relations Team on 0207 424 1165 or email pressteam@diabetes.org.uk.

For urgent out of hours media enquiries only please call 07711 176 028. ISDN facilities available.


Notes to editor:


19,558 records of children and young people (CYP) account for 80 per cent of all CYP with diabetes in England and Wales, meaning total number of CYP with diabetes equates to more than 24,000. 85.5% of 24,000 equates to 20,520.

The National Diabetes Paediatric Audit has 19,558 records, from 155 paediatric units, on CYP with diabetes aged 0 – 24 during a 12-month audit period from 2009 to 2010.

The NHS Information Centre for health and social care (The NHS IC) is England’s authoritative, central, independent source of health and social care information. It works with a wide range of health and social care providers nationwide to provide the facts and figures that help the NHS and social services run effectively. Its role is to collect data, analyse it and convert it into useful information which helps providers improve their services and supports academics, researcher, regulators and policymakers in their work.

The NHS IC also produces a wide range of statistical publications each year across a number of areas including: primary care, health and lifestyles, screening, hospital care, population and geography, social care and workforce and pay statistics.

All CYP with diabetes aged 12 and above should have eight care processes: HbA1c (blood glucose), Body Mass Index, blood pressure, Albumin and Creatinine (kidney), cholesterol, eye and foot exam.

The £2.5 million would be invested over five years.

Type 1 diabetes develops when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. This type of diabetes usually appears before the age of 40 and accounts for around 10 per cent of all people with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, it is not known why it develops and it is not connected with being overweight. People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin either via a pump or by injections several times a day to stay alive. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. Insulin acts as a key unlocking the cells, so if there is not enough insulin, or it is not working properly, the cells are only partially unlocked (or not at all) and glucose builds up in the blood. Type 2 diabetes usually affects people over 40 (over 25 in people from South Asian and Black backgrounds) and can be treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity but medication and/or insulin is often required. In around 80 per cent of cases the condition is linked with being overweight and can go undetected for up to ten years.

Diabetes UK is the leading charity for over 3.5 million people in the UK with diabetes. In 2011, Diabetes UK aims to spend over £6 million on diabetes research to investigate the causes and prevention of diabetes, to improve care and treatment of diabetes and ultimately to work towards a cure. For more information visit www.diabetes.org.uk. In the UK, there are currently 2.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes and it is estimated that 850,000 people have Type 2 diabetes but do not know it.

One person is diagnosed with diabetes every three minutes in the UK. 

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