In Brief

Diabetes set to 'bankrupt NHS' with 60% rise in sufferers

Lifestyle changes vital to prevent more cases of type 2 diabetes, say medical experts

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The number of diabetic people in the UK has risen by nearly 60 per cent over the last ten years, a rate that is threatening to "bankrupt the NHS", a leading charity has warned.

Diabetes UK says the number of people suffering from the condition has increased from 2.1 million in 2005 to 3.3 million this year.

"The costs of treating diabetes will continue to spiral out of control and threaten to bankrupt the NHS. Now is the time for action," the charity has said.

Nine in ten cases in the UK are said to be type 2 diabetes, which tends to develop later in life and is closely linked to diet and obesity. Type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas does not produce any insulin, often appears in childhood.

The inability to control blood sugar levels can lead to severe complications, including blindness, organ damage and nerve damage, making it a "massive drain" on NHS resources, says the BBC. The reason for the soaring cases of type 2 diabetes is being placed "squarely on the nation's ballooning waistline", it adds. However, the increase in type 1 diabetes is not understood.

Diabetes-related amputations reached an all-time record high last month, with an average 135 people undergoing an amputation each week.

Diabetes medication now accounts for ten per cent of the NHS drugs bill, with £869m spent on drugs such as insulin and metformin.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, says 80 per cent of this is spent on managing "avoidable" complications. "There is huge potential to save money and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals and services through providing better care to prevent people with diabetes from developing devastating and costly complications," she said.

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England's director for long-term conditions, described the figures as a "stark warning" and highlighted the increasing cost of diabetes. "We've said it before and we'll say it again, it's time to get serious about lifestyle change," he added.

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