Patients with diabetes must be educated to self-manage their condition to reduce the risk of avoidable complications, after figures released by Diabetes UK showed that the number of people living with type 1 or 2 diabetes has reached a record high.
The figures show that there were 3,333,069 adults with a diagnosis of type 1 or 2 diabetes in 2013/14, a rise of over 125,000 compared with the previous year. Concern has also been raised over undiagnosed cases, with the figures estimating that the number of people thought to have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes was approximately 590,000 in 2013/14.
The rise in diabetes has had a severe effect on the health service, costing the NHS £10 billion each year, with 80% of that being spent on treating avoidable complications of the disease such as strokes, cardiovascular disease and blindness, according to Diabetes UK. A major cause of these avoidable complications is a lack of education for patients to support them in self-management the charity says.
Libby Dowling, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, said that it was 'vital for nurses and other health professionals to ensure that patients understand how to manage their condition'.
She said: 'Patients spend roughly just three hours a year with nurses and doctors as part of their treatment for diabetes. The rest of that time they are alone, so it is absolutely crucial for patients to be able to identify complications and refer themselves.'
A survey done by Diabetes UK highlighted the lack of patient access to education on diabetes. It found that only 16% of people with diabetes in England and Wales were offered a diabetes education course when they were diagnosed with the condition. This is despite NICE guidelines stating that they should be offered to all patients on diagnosis, as evidence suggests the courses significantly improve a patient's capacity to self-manage their condition.
Bridget Turner, director of policy at Diabetes UK, said: 'There is a gaping hole when it comes to diabetes education because we know that most people newly diagnosed with diabetes are not offered a group education course. This is despite strong evidence that giving people the knowledge and skills to manage their diabetes effectively can reduce their long-term risk of complications.'
The survey also found that 42% of patients said that they were not confident that they were managing their condition effectively.
Dr Marian Carey of the Leicester Diabetes Centre said: 'We know that people don¹t feel confident about managing their diabetes. Without proper education opportunities to develop the necessary skills, they are at risk of life-changing complications, which cause them misery and costs the NHS money.'
The figures were released to mark the start of Diabetes Week, which will run from 14 to 20 June.