The pandemic has created a growing health crisis for people living with diabetes, with almost 2.5 million missing out on vital check-ups, Diabetes UK has warned.

National Diabetes Audit figures for 2020 showed 2.25 million people with type 2 diabetes and more than 200,000 people with type 1 diabetes in England did not get all eight recommended care processes which are essential to reduce the risk of complications including sight loss, heart disease, kidney disease and poor pregnancy outcomes.

Other data suggested 60,000 type 2 diabetes diagnoses could have been missed or delayed in the UK between March and December last year.

Warning of a diabetes care ‘timebomb’, the charity this week (7 July) launched a new report, Diabetes Can’t Wait, demanding the government urgently invest in diabetes care and prevention.

Diabetes UK chief executive, Chris Askew, said: ‘Healthcare professionals are working incredibly hard to clear the backlog of missed and cancelled routine health checks, consultations and referrals and we are extremely grateful to them. But they are working with limited resources and missed appointments – and missed or delayed diagnoses – can devastate lives. It’s time for the government to act now.’

The report made five major recommendations for government action:

  • Prioritise and invest in diabetes care and prevention
  • Invest in diabetes technology
  • Recognise the impact on mental health
  • Invest in workforce
  • Implement measures to support weight management and prevent type 2 diabetes

Recently surveying 4,000 people living with diabetes, the charity found one in three had consultations cancelled that had still not taken place and one in three reported having had no contact with their diabetes team since the start of the pandemic.

Almost half (45%) of all respondents reported difficulties managing diabetes during the pandemic, with most citing a lack of access to care and support from their diabetes healthcare team.

The report follows the charity’s launch of a 90-minute online training module to help healthcare professionals support the emotional and psychological health of people with diabetes.

Karen Davies, senior clinical adviser at Diabetes UK, said community pharmacists and pharmacy assistants were in a great position to notice signs that a person with diabetes might be struggling with their mental health.

‘It could be noticing if somebody doesn’t use up the amount of insulin you would expect them to, or recognising they seem a bit tired or worn out. How do they look, what do they say, do they look a bit stressed or worried?’, she told The Pharmacist.

The free CPD training advises professionals to ask open-ended questions, offer affirmations and reflections and then to summarise and signpost to further advice and resources, such as general practice or the Diabetes UK Helpline.

‘A starting point is very much about remembering this is a person first, rather than a person with diabetes. It is about opening up any consultation with something about that person and then seeing what comes back, and not being afraid of that,’ Mrs Davies said.