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Digital glucose monitor rollout to end diabetes 'postcode lottery'

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Thousands more people with type 1 diabetes in England will be offered life-changing glucose monitors on the NHS as part of plans to revolutionise health care with clever technologies, it is revealed today.

Announced to coincide with World Diabetes Day, leaders said the move would end the ”postcode lottery” some parts of the country were facing to access Freestyle Libre.

“Supporting people with modern tools to manage conditions such as type 1 diabetes is about to become much more widespread”

Simon Stevens

The sensor, which is regularly worn by the likes of prime minister Theresa May and England’s chief nurse Jane Cummings, relays glucose levels to a smart phone or e-reader, which means patients no longer have to prick their finger to test their blood.

NHS England will ensure the device, which is the size of a £2 coin and sits on the arm, is available on prescription for all patients who qualify for it in line with NHS clinical guidelines from April 2019.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across the country will be given extra funding to increase access to the monitor.

Currently only around 3-5% of people with type 1 diabetes in England are able to receive Freestyle Libre on prescription and the aim is to up this to at least 20-25%.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said the move meant the thousands of people who had called for “fair and equitable” access to the device had been listened to. 

Chris Askew

Chris Askew

He said: “Once in place, these measures should mean an end to the variation in availability and the postcode lottery that have dogged access to this life-changing technology.

“This decision demonstrates that the NHS is seizing the opportunities presented by new technology, but also that it has listened to the voices of many thousands of people living with and affected by diabetes across the UK. Everyone who has called for fair and equitable access to this technology – through both funding and eligibility criteria – should feel rightly proud that they been heard today,” he added.

”These measures should mean an end to the postcode lottery that have dogged access to this life-changing technology”

Chris Askew

“The diabetes crisis is a fight that must be fought on many fronts, and Diabetes UK will continue to champion access to new and established technology – and gold standard care – wherever variation and inaccessibility exist,” Mr Askew said.

It comes as the NHS seeks to harness the power of digital technology to improve treatment and care and combat some of the current demand challenges by empowering people to take greater control of their health.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the rollout of the glucose monitor was just the beginning of the digital revolution.

“Increasingly the NHS is going to be offering patients this sort of technology to help them more easily manage their own long-term health problem,” he said.

NHS England

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

“In the NHS of the future, for many conditions you’re going to get NHS support direct from your smartphone or wearable device rather than having to trek to regular hospital outpatient appointments,” Mr Stevens said.

“Supporting people with modern tools to manage conditions such as type 1 diabetes is about to become much more widespread. Innovations such as these also free up time and resources for the NHS as a whole,” he added.

“Rolling out these monitors will not only make life more convenient, it will save the NHS time and resources”

Matt Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock, who has been a strong champion of digital interventions since taking on the role this year, welcomed the announcement.

He said: “This is the perfect example of the NHS seizing the opportunity of new technology to help people manage their conditions from the comfort of their own home.

“Rolling out these monitors will not only make life more convenient, it will save the NHS time and resources by preventing people becoming ill in the first place,” Mr Hancock added.

“I want to see innovations like these become commonplace in our healthcare system so millions of people across the country stay out of hospital and can get on with their lives,” he said. 

Health and social care secretary

Matt Hancock

Source: Department of Health and Social Care

Matt Hancock

There are now more than three million people in England with a diagnosis of diabetes and a further 940,000 living with diabetes that are yet to be diagnosed. Of those with a diagnosis of diabetes, it is estimated that 300,000 have type 1.

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