NHS DIABETES SCANDAL: 490,000 sufferers denied life-saving glucose monitor PM uses
Posted on 26/07/2018 by
A POSTCODE lottery is denying hundreds of thousands of diabetics the same life-saving patch used by Prime Minister Theresa May, it can be revealed today. NHS data shows just 9,690 sufferers across Britain have been prescribed game-changing blood sugar monitoring equipment since health bosses approved its use.
Experts estimate 500,000 could benefit from the “flash glucose monitor”, a small sensor providing continuous measurements.
It means just one in every 50 eligible people are currently receiving it.
The scandal has sparked anger, with scores of commissioning groups refusing to fund the revolutionary system, called FreeStyle Libre, because it is not seen as a priority.
Chris Askew, chief executive of charity Diabetes UK, said: “The delay in some areas in providing access to a ground-breaking technology that can help people to better manage their diabetes is unacceptable.
We are urgently calling on local health bosses to give access to the device to those who can benefit, no matter where they live
“We are urgently calling on local health bosses to give access to the device to those who can benefit, no matter where they live.
“People with diabetes have already been waiting for too long. Every area should now have a policy providing access to flash for free on prescription.”
The flash device – available to the NHS for less than £1,000 a year each – can free sufferers from the pain of frequent finger-prick testing, making it easier to keep track of blood sugar.
The system automatically reads glucose levels through a needle-like sensor attached to a patch, roughly the size of a £2 coin, which is worn on the back of the upper arm for up to 14 days.
Levels are read by scanning a handheld sensor over the patch, eliminating the need for routine finger pricks.
Experts say it produces a more accurate reading and, crucially for sufferers, slashes the risk of serious complications such as amputation, blindness and stroke.
They claim the equipment will help the NHS, which spends £15billion a year on diabetes treatment and medication, by reducing hospital admissions and the likelihood of long-term complications.
Earlier this month, Mrs May, 61, was seen wearing a flash monitoring patch on her left arm at Blenheim Palace during US President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK.
The equipment is seen as an alternative to routine blood glucose monitoring in people with Type 1 and 2 diabetes, who use insulin injections.
The majority of flash users have Type 1, a condition that occurs when the pancreas, a small gland behind the stomach, fails to produce insulin, the hormone regulating blood glucose.
If the amount of glucose is too high it can damage vital organs.
In Northern Ireland and Wales, flash monitoring equipment is freely available.
But the latest available data obtained by the Daily Express shows only half the 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England have prescribed it.
Despite it being recommended for use in November last year, 43 still have blanket bans in place.
Some 98 have made it available, while it is under review in 33.
There is no information on the availability in 21 areas.
In May, the last month for which figures were available, 3,489 flash kits were prescribed in England.
The device is available to diabetics in Westminster and Sonning, the Berkshire village that is home to Mrs May and her husband Philip, but not in her Maidenhead constituency.
Downing Street refused to say whether the Prime Minister received hers on the NHS.
In Scotland, only seven in 14 health boards have made the technology available.
It is unavailable in six and under review in one area.
Type 1 sufferer Philip Ramsden, 74, found out about FreesStyle Libre through a friend whose 15-year-old granddaughter was testing it.
He was forced to fund it himself after Buckinghamshire CCG refused to prescribe it and, after only four months, noticed a reduction to his average blood glucose levels.
But costs meant he had to give it up.
Mr Ramsden said: “My quality of life improved and the ease of using the system was remarkable. My wife could simply scan my arm while I was driving, preventing the need to carry out the difficult task of finding somewhere to pull over to prick my finger.
“Being able to anticipate the rise and fall of blood sugar levels at ease regularly enabled me to do something about it straight away rather than waiting until dangerous levels were reached.”
Martin Hirst, chief executive of the charity The InDependent Diabetes Trust, said: “The results show a postcode lottery exists in the prescribing of the FreeStyle Libre system.
“What is disappointing is the number of CCGs who fail to even recommend this pioneering technology, which has the ability to fundamentally change the management of diabetes and improve the immediate and long-term healthcare of those who require its use.”
There are thought to be five million people living with diabetes in the UK, yet only 3.7 million have been diagnosed.
Of those, 90 per cent have Type 2, which is fuelled by unhealthy lifestyles.
The current commercial list price of FreeStyle Libre is £57.95 for the reader, plus £57.95 for a disposable sensor that must be replaced every fortnight.
A NHS England spokesman said: “Earlier this year we wrote to local GP groups reminding them of their responsibilities and of the guidance that exists when it comes to flash glucose monitoring and other treatments for people with Type 1. It is their responsibility to take this into account as they make these decisions.”
Julie Wood, chief executive of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: “The majority of CCGs have spent some money on the FreeStyle Libre devices and are taking on board NHS England guidance.
“However, FreeStyle Libra is not appropriate for all individuals with Type 1 and the final decision must be a clinical one and in the best interest of the patient.
“Unfortunately, the NHS does not have unlimited resources and ensuring patients get the best possible care against a backdrop of spiralling demands is one of the biggest issues CCGs face.”
CASE STUDY 1 - SUE BRIGGS
RETIRED maths teacher Sue Briggs was prescribed FreeStyle Libre within a month of it becoming available on the NHS in November last year.
Like many Type 1 diabetes sufferers, her condition is managed by a hospital consultant and it was he who wrote to her GP recommending it.
For two years previously Sue, 63, from Taunton, Somerset, had dipped into her savings to pay the £100 a month costs of the monitoring system.
She said: “I received mine just before Christmas and it was like an early present.
“Instead of having to stop and prick myself throughout the day to find out whether my blood glucose is going dangerously low or high, I now have so much more information and.
“As a consequence, I can stay in range most of the time.”
Sue was diagnosed with diabetes aged 53 in 2008.
Initially, doctors thought she had suffered a heart attack, but when they eventually checked her blood sugars, they realised she had Type 1.
She now inserts a small needle attached to a patch the size of a £2 coin into her arm once every fortnight.
This Morning doctor explains how to test for diabetes
It stays there for the duration, and she swipes a hand-held reader over it to quickly and accurately measure the glucose levels.
The display also gives information of what has been happening to her over the previous eight hours.
Sue said: “When I was diagnosed I knew absolutely nothing.
“I thought there was one type of diabetes that sent your sugars high and one that sent your sugars low.
“This system is easy to use and because of that I can do it more often and because of the information I receive, I can react more effectively.
“One of the symptoms of my condition is hypoglycemia and I get very hot.
“With this equipment, I can very quickly read my glucose levels and know – if they are dangerously low or high – what to do.
“Before I was prescribed it I was funding it privately and it was worth every penny.
“I appreciate each CCG [Clinical Commissioning Group] has limited funds, but I don’t think they are looking at the long-term benefits of this.
“As diabetics, we always look at how we will be in the future and because of that I am hopefully preventing any long-term health problems which may cost the NHS significant amounts of money.
“I just wish that everybody could benefit in the way I have.”
CASE STUDY 2 - NEIL ABSOLOM
NEIL Absolom, who has had Type 1 diabetes for 27 years, only got his hands on a flash monitoring device because he took part in a pilot project at his local hospital.
His condition and complications arising from it mean he is unable to work, but has had to meet the costs of his treatment himself.
Mr Absolom, 61, from Poole, Dorset, was initially prescribed tablets and then received injections to his stomach before being given an insulin pump.
However, his condition means his fingers become hard so he is unable to release blood, the standard method of checking glucose in finger prick testing.
Mr Absolom took part in a four-week trial of the FreeStyle Libre system at Royal Bournemouth Hospital and was able to keep the equipment.
But he has to spend £100 a month replacing the patches even though he is on benefits.
In an shocking example of the postcode lottery, the device is available from CCGs in Hampshire and Somerset, but is not available on prescription in Dorset.
Mr Absolom used to work for G4S in a job that required him to drive, but his condition meant his licence was taken away.
The scandal has prompted him to start a petition demanding Dorset County Council holds the local CCG to account.
He said: “I think it is unjust. I am unable to work because of health reasons so think it’s unfair I have got to pay. I am taking this action on behalf of other people who are having to fund this themselves – there must be many others across the country.
“The equipment has helped. I am unable to recognise diabetic hypos, but this piece of kit has enabled me to continuously check my blood sugars and whether they are going up or down, so I can make adjustments.
“I wouldn’t have known it existed unless I had taken part in the trial. It seems grossly unfair Dorset CCG will not pay for it, especially when Hampshire and Somerset on either side of us do and despite the fact NICE said it should be made available.”