NHS Long Term Plan offers wearable tech to monitor exercise as part of Diabetes Prevention Plan.
Thousands of people who are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes will now be able to access digital support as part of an expansion of the NHS England Diabetes Prevention Programme.
From this month people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes but cannot make face-to-face appointments will be among the first to benefit from the wider service.
It is estimated that around 40,000 places a year on the Diabetes Prevention Programme will be delivered digitally – making up to a fifth of users of the service.
The digital support option was taken up by 68% compared with around half of those offered face-to-face support.
People who are regarded as being at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes will receive; wearable technology that monitors levels of exercise (such as a pedometer), apps that offer users access to health coaches and educational content, online peer support groups and the ability to set and monitor goals electronically.
Since being launched in 2016, people who have completed the NHS England Diabetes Prevention Programme lost an average of seven and a half pounds, over two pounds more than originally predicted.
The aim of the programme is to help people who are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes get tailored, personalised help including advice on healthy eating, physical exercise and managing weight, which together reduces the risk of developing the condition.
A trial of more than 5,000 people on the programme found that around 68% of those using digital support were aged under 65, while the average age of digital participants was 58 - lower than the age of those using face-to-face interventions (64).
In addition, 16% of digital registrations were aged between 18-44 compared with 7% of the same age group who registered for face-to-face support.
Jonathan Valabhji, NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, said: “The Diabetes Prevention Programme has been a tremendous success for thousands of people already, and this new digital pilot further builds on that success.
“I’m delighted to see such a positive response among younger working age people, which shows how a digital approach can expand the reach of patients’ services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.”
Dr Jennifer Smith, Diabetes Programme Director at Public Health England, said: “The success of the pilot’s early findings shows we are breaking new ground to help those most at risk of type 2 diabetes to literally take their health into their own hands at their own time and pace. Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a fabulous next step in diabetes prevention.”
Around 4 million people in England are estimated to have type 2 diabetes, making the condition one of the greatest public health problems facing the NHS.
One in six hospital beds in England are occupied by someone with type 2 diabetes, which leads to more than 9,000 amputations each year and the NHS spends more than £6 billion annually treating the condition and its complications.