Published on 2 February 2021

Diabetes healthcare professionals estimate more than 100,000 could be living with type 2 diabetes and don’t know it.

The number of people living with type 2 diabetes undiagnosed could have risen drastically over the last year since people have delayed making appointments with healthcare professionals.

An expert in type 2 diabetes remission has suggested that more than 100,000 people could be living with type 2 diabetes without a formal diagnosis having stayed away from their GPs in order to reduce their risk of catching Covid-19 since March last year.

It is believed that millions of people avoided going to the doctor in 2020, and NHS polls have shown that four in 10 are not seeking help from their GP.

People living with undiagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes since the start of 2020 could now be putting their health at serious risk from additional complications. 

Research figures from the first lockdown found that the rate of diagnosis for type 2 diabetes in England reduced by 46%, with similar rates in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - which reduced by 37%.

During this period, the research estimated that there was more than 45,000 missed or delayed diagnosis for type 2 diabetes across the UK, with mortality rates skyrocketing by 110% in England alone due to Covid-19.

Over the last year more people have engaged in less physical activity than usual due to the guidance to stay at home during the pandemic

Dr Ian Braithwaite, a diabetes remissions doctor, suggested that if this trend continued throughout 2020, it’s likely that more than 100,000 people are living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes in the UK alone.

As a consequence, he estimated that the NHS could face a bill of £100 million in this year alone.

With the impact on lifestyles during lockdowns and being advised to stay indoors it has also been predicted that 5 million people will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by 2025. 

Dr Braithwaite said: “The last 12 months has seen more people than ever before gain weight after an unprecedented period of inactivity, and more than 1 in 3 people are now predicted to be pre-diabetic. However, with levels of diagnosis dropping by 70%, I expect the real figure to be even higher.

“Fears of visiting the GP have prevented people from getting the help they need, which will put additional strain on an already stretched NHS that spends £315 every second treating type 2 diabetes. This cost will only rise as the number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK skyrockets in 2021.” 

There are a number of programmes that claim to reverse type 2 diabetes, including previously DRWF-funded researcher Professor Roy Taylor’s ‘revolutionary’ diet and the ‘shakes and soups’ diet available through the NHS.

Dr Braithwaite added: “These solutions do not go nearly far enough. They only do half the job by helping people lose the weight initially, but limited resources and little focus on sustainable change mean many will gain the weight back it back in a matter of months. To truly be effective in sustaining weight loss and reversing type 2 diabetes, a holistic change is needed - often for our patients it is a mix of creating new nutritional, psychological, and physical habits that last in the long term. No soup or shake will do that for you alone.”

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