Community pharmacists have been called upon to help halt the rapid spread of type 2 diabetes as part of a national prevention programme.

Diabetes is the fastest growing health risk in England, outstripping cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes, mini-strokes and dementia between 2009 and 2014.

Two-and-a-half-million people in England currently live with type 2 diabetes with the number set to rise to four million by 2025.

However, 80% of type two diabetes cases could be prevented, according to the World Health Organisation.

Dr Jim O’Brien, national programme director for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP), said: “It would be really useful if pharmacists could get involved in the programme.”

The DPP is a collaboration between Public Health England, Diabetes UK and NHS England that aims to identify at-risk individuals and refer them for lifestyle interventions.

The programme will be rolled out nationally over the next three years and will be available to all adults at risk, with referral routes through existing GP practice registers, NHS health checks and opportunistic case finding.

O’Brien said: ‘Pharmacists can get involved in two ways, either they can identify people who come through their pharmacies who they think have got pre-diabetes because of their appearance, because many of them will be heavy and they will know what sort of medications they are on.

“Or, if they wish to is to, they can get involved in providing the intervention programme because many community pharmacies already get involved in pubic health measures, many look after people with hypertension, many look after people with long-term conditions and maybe they can get involved with this.”

Pilot sites for the programme will be announced around Christmas time with O’Brien noting: “Community pharmacists have already bid in.”

The intervention will be underpinned by three core goals: weight loss, achievement of dietary recommendations and achievement of physical activity recommendations.

The long-term scheme will comprise of a minimum of 13 face-to-face group sessions across at least nine months.

The DPP is currently working with seven ‘demonstrator’ sites: Birmingham South and Central CCG, Bradford City CCG, Durham County Council, Heredfordshire CCG and Local Authority, Medway CCG and Local Authority, Salford CCG and Local Authority and Southwark Council and CCG.