Treating type 2 diabetes takes up more healthcare professional time than obesity, heart disease and dementia combined.
Healthcare professionals have called for more emphasis on lifestyle changes to help people control their type 2 diabetes.
More than half of healthcare professionals would prefer to encourage people with type 2 diabetes to eat improved diets and get more exercise over prescribing medication – according to a recently published survey.
A survey of healthcare professionals carried out by digital health platform Liva Healthcare also found that around six in 10 (59%) healthcare professionals reported that treating type 2 diabetes takes up more of their time than dementia (13%), obesity (6%) and heart disease (3%) put together.
The fear that the financial burden of treating type 2 diabetes on the NHS is “unsustainable” was a major concern of healthcare professionals surveyed.
The NHS spends around 9% of its annual budget (£8.8 billion) on type 2 diabetes, with one in six of all people in hospital having the condition.
Almost two thirds (71%) of the healthcare professionals surveyed felt that the NHS could only continue to manage the current level of type 2 diabetes care for another 10 years at most – with only 1% suggesting that spending at this level could continue for longer. Almost half (42%) believed that treating type 2 diabetes would only be financially sustainable for the next five years.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, NHS Consultant Cardiologist and Professor of Evidence Based Medicine said: “The current management of patients with type 2 diabetes is upside down. Costly drugs to manage blood glucose don’t address the root cause of the condition. In addition, type 2 diabetes medication comes with potential side effects that hinder a patient’s quality of life, increases hospital admissions and doesn’t prolong a patient’s lifespan.
“The good news is that, with my patients, I have found that the condition is reversible in up to 60% of patients. The best results come within a year of pure dietary changes that specifically cut out added sugar and processed carbohydrate foods. Supporting front line clinicians with technology that gives patients a lifestyle prescription to manage the condition will not only save hundreds of millions of NHS money, but will also improve patients’ quality of life; something which a drug centric approach cannot do.”
People with type 2 diabetes agreed with healthcare professionals as 39% would prefer to choose lifestyle changes as their first line of treatment over taking prescribed medication, while 42% said they would like to use a combination of lifestyle and medication management.
Just 15% said they would prefer to use medication to manage their condition over lifestyle change.
Dr Roger Henderson, GP and UK medical director at Liva Healthcare, said: “Doctors are working flat out to help those with type 2 diabetes. As the research demonstrates, healthcare professionals fear it is only a matter of time before funds will run out altogether. Yet it has been proven that with early intervention and lifestyle changes, many cases of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes can be reversed.
“The majority of healthcare professionals and people with type 2 diabetes are showing a clear desire to move away from just using medication to treat the disease. We therefore need innovative ways to support general practice and provide significant time and financial benefits for the NHS. Matt Hancock has already laid out a vision for the NHS to embrace technological change which we fully support. This gap in service provision urgently needs to be bridged before the NHS is financially broken by this growing health crisis.”
The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme was officially launched in 2017 with the aim of supporting people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. An app that can be downloaded onto mobile phones provided by Liva Healthcare aims to help with weight loss and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
The pilot scheme is providing digital health interventions to more than 5,000 patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Dr Eleanor Kennedy, Research Manager with DRWF, felt this was an important finding but that a lot more strategic investment needs to be made across the healthcare funding spectrum in order to facilitate this.
Dr Kennedy said: “It’s clear to everyone working in and around the NHS that the number of people presenting with type 2 diabetes is increasing at a rate that is not sustainable for already crammed GP practices. We need to encourage the early adoption of healthy lifestyle changes, improved dietary advice and increased local facilities for people to exercise. With this investment, thousands of people could be prevented from getting type 2 diabetes in the first place which could have a very profound effect on how the NHS uses its resources over the next decade.”