Diabetes Could Bankrupt NHS By 2035

The treatment of diabetes is expected to cost the National Health Service in excess of £16.9 bn annually by 2035 and may potentially “bankrupt” the service due to the continually growing number of people being diagnosed with the condition according to research published in the Diabetic Medicine journal.

The research is the first time that the financial impact of both Type 1 diabetes, an unavoidable autoimmune condition, and Type 2 diabetes, often linked to poor diet, have been separately identified. Currently Type 2 accounts for £8.8 bn of the NHS’s £9.8 bn yearly budget for the treatment of the condition.

This figure has created some outcry since the vast majority of spending is being made on the treatment of complications which largely could have been avoided entirely by focusing on the prevention of Type 2 diabetes by encouraging people to eat healthy and get more exercise.

Baroness Barbara Young, the current chief executive of Diabetes UK, said that the fact most of the cost went on treating conditions which were largely preventable was “shocking”.


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Worse still, if no preventative action is taken, the number of diabetics in the UK is expected to almost double between now and 2035, going from 3.8 million to 6.25 million.

Types of Diabetes

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes revolve around difficulties in controlling blood sugar levels due to a weakening, or complete failure in the case of Type 1, of the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.

Both types of the condition can lead to further complications over time and if left uncontrolled such as nerve damage, visual conditions such as glaucoma and kidney failure amongst others. This can lead to additional costs such as lost working days and additional care costs which, following research into trends relating to the disease, have been estimated to bring the total cost of diabetes in the UK to around £40 bn by 2035.

Diabetes related deaths in 2010-11 alone led to a loss of around 325,000 working years according to the report, highlighting the potential costs of less tangible factors to the UK economy.

Obesity Issue

The research coincides with a recent study which suggests that roughly half of the population of the UK could be obese by 2030. The predictions are based on statistical modelling and trending from historical obesity data which has shown that the UK has had one of the highest levels of obesity in the world over the past 20 years.

As Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common complications arising from obesity, it should come as no surprise that the figures from both studies are so closely related. However, both should act as a clear warning signal to the UK that failure to act now to modify our lifestyles and diets could have serious ramifications not only for the physical health of the nation, but the financial health too.


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References and Further Reading

Hex N, Bartlett C, Wright D et al. “Estimating the current and future costs of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in the United Kingdom, including direct health costs and indirect societal and productivity costs”. Diabetic Medicine (study awaiting publication).

Diabetes: cases and costs predicted to rise” –  NHS Choices, April 25 2012

Diabetes threatens to ‘bankrupt’ NHS within a generation“. The Guardian, April 25 2012

“NHS spending on diabetes ‘to reach £16.9 billion by 2035“. Diabetes UK, April 25 2012

Stuart is a health blogger who produces articles for health insurance provider Health On Line. He writes for various sites including Follow Health.

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