Patients who took part in the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NDPP) reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by one fifth, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Manchester used data from over 2,000 GP practices, matching 18,470 pre-diabetic patients who were referred to the NDPP with 51,331 patients who were not.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), found the probability of converting to type 2 diabetes at 36 months after referral was 12.7% for those referred to the NDPP and 15.4% for those not referred.

The ‘Healthier You’ programme, which was rolled out in 2018, aims to reduce the risk of developing the disease by offering pre-diabetic people exercise and dietary advice.

The researchers suggest the most likely cause for the risk reduction is weight loss, as previous work showed that people who used the NDPP were associated with weight loss of 2.3 kilograms on average.

University of Manchester research associate Dr Rathi Ravindrarajah said: ‘Even though we were only able to examine referral to the programme, rather than attendance or completion, it still showed a significant reduction in risk of 20%.

‘That suggests the decision to implement the programme quickly and at scale in England was the right one.

‘And as the results are reproducible, it also supports the continuation of similar programmes to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.’

Health secretary Steve Barclay said the study shows the NHS programme has ‘promising results’ and empowers pre-diabetic people ‘to take control of their own health’.

He added: ‘Diabetes costs the NHS around £10bn a year, but this evidence-based programme is an example of how we can help people make lifestyle changes to prevent the disease progressing, whilst ensuring value for the taxpayer.’

Last year, another University of Manchester study showed that the NHS prevention programme had resulted in a 7% reduction in the number of new type 2 diabetes diagnoses in England between 2018 and 2019 – avoiding 18,000 diagnoses.

Meanwhile, in October, a pilot study by NHS Humber and North Yorkshire ICB found that texting eligible patients about the NDPP brought about a ten-fold increase in referrals.

Official NHS statistics on diabetes prescriptions show that 60.3m drug items used in treating diabetes prescribed in England in 2021/22, costing £1.25bn and representing 13% of the total spend on prescription items in the country.

This article first appeared on our sister publication, Pulse.