The NHS in England and Wales is facing a potential “care time-bomb” because of the number of younger people who have diabetes, a report has concluded.
The study by the NHS Information Centre, the largest ever audit for England and Wales, found that nearly 300,000 children and young adults with diabetes had high-risk blood sugar levels that could lead to high levels of severe and disabling complications such as kidney failure, limb amputation and stroke. A further 144,000 had dangerously high-risk blood sugar levels, the National Diabetes Audit 2010 concluded.
Children and young adults (aged 0 to 54) were also less likely than older adults (aged 55 to 69) and the elderly (aged 70 and over) to receive the basic care checks required to monitor their condition, leading to concerns that a large cohort of a generation might develop diabetes and require substantial hospital care in a matter of years, it added.
The audit also showed that obesity was more prevalent among children and younger adults with diabetes than older adults and those aged 70 and over.
Among younger adults with type 2 diabetes, nine out of 10 were overweight or obese, the highest prevalence within any age group, according to the audit.
Dr Bob Young, audit lead clinician, consultant diabetologist and clinical lead for the National Diabetes Information Service, said: “These results ring alarm bells. They show that younger people make up a quarter of all those with diabetes yet have the highest risks of potentially preventable complications. If these risks could be reduced, much future disability and shortened life expectancy could be prevented.”
In a separate poll, charitable organisation X-PERT Health has concluded that most Britons do not understand diabetes well enough to control it effectively.
Even though three-quarters of those surveyed knew someone with diabetes or lived with the condition themselves, more than 60% believed that both diabetes types 1 and 2 had to be treated with regular insulin injections.