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Spalding-area MP John Hayes on diabetes

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MP Sir John Hayes discusses the health condition in his weekly Hayes in the House column...

Many of us will know at least one of the 4.9million Britons with diabetes, whether that be a family member or friend – in fact, many of us will experience the condition ourselves, with type 2 being more common with age. However, few without diabetes will know the physical and mental toll the condition can mean.

During April, meeting Diabetes UK and, in particular, one of their ambassadors, I learned much about the intricacies of diabetes prevention and treatment, as well as just how pervasive the problem of substandard care became during the pandemic.

Sir John Hayes (56395911)
Sir John Hayes (56395911)

Diabetes affects far too many Britons for its existence to be anything but common knowledge. Yet, for many, the sheer extent of its prevalence comes as a shock. For, as well as the millions of Britons that have diabetes, there are an estimated 850,000 people with undiagnosed Type 2. This number will doubtlessly have soared during the pandemic, as case numbers have dramatically increased, almost doubling in the last 15 years.

The cause of this growth, and how to counter it, requires consideration. Clearly, prevention is vital, but, straightforwardly, there are now many more people with diabetes that need care and treatment. Every week the condition leads to over 190 amputations, 770 strokes, 590 heart attacks and over 2,300 cases of heart failure; each one bringing sadness as a father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter’s life is altered, sometimes irrevocably. In such cases, efficient access to effective healthcare can make all the difference.

At the event last month, I spoke at length to a lady called Jessica from Diabetes UK about the recent reality of her condition, and what needs to be done to secure the best life chances for people like her. She told me that the challenges of diabetes are with her constantly - a preoccupying presence that cannot be switched on and off.

Jessica, and others like her, face more than physical burdens; for many, diabetes results in mental stress that can easily overwhelm, with sufferers twice as likely to
experience long lasting
depression. When they are unable, as 41% of those surveyed by Diabetes UK are, to access their healthcare teams, all of the worst aspects of their condition are exacerbated.

Jessica’s knowledge of the routine checks which must be at the core of a recovery strategy was eye-opening. When 10% of all NHS spending goes towards diabetes, and 80% of that spending is on preventable conditions, getting right the key care processes that are vital to measure risks and anticipate complications early, is both essential for sufferers and for us all.

The day after my meeting with Jessica, I spoke in the House of Commons about the urgent need for a comprehensive Government strategy to combat the lapse in diabetes care during the pandemic, and about how we can arm the NHS with effective prevention, care and treatment measures.

Diabetes UK know that central to this will be linking varied local care providers through integrated systems.

It will take vision and determination to reorientate the NHS towards modern diabetes care. But, as the number of diabetics has grown, an extraordinary challenge is prevailing, and only with clear sighted forthright conviction will we meet and overcome it.

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