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Around two million people in England are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, the highest on record, according to new NHS figures.
The new figures come as the NHS ramps up efforts to treat, prevent and even put the illness in remission, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Latest stats show there are 1,969,610 people registered with a GP who have non-diabetic hyperglycaemia, a condition which puts people at high risk of Type 2, which is the highest on record.
The scale of the problem is likely to be even greater as the growing obesity crisis is exposing millions more to the condition.
NHS action to combat the problem includes the world-first Diabetes Prevention Programme which identifies people at high risk of diabetes and supports them in living a healthier lifestyle, has had around half a million referrals and seen patients who have so far finished it lose the combined weight of 43 ambulances.
Radical low calorie diets, that have been shown to stamp out recently diagnosed Type 2 diabetes, will be rolled out by the NHS to 5,000 people from April.
Patients will be prescribed a liquid diet of just over 800 calories a day for three months which will support many to achieve remission of their Type 2 diabetes, followed by a further nine months of support to help maintain their weight loss.
NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens said: “Our bulging waistlines mean two million people are now at risk of joining the expanding ranks of those living with largely preventable Type 2 diabetes.
“The NHS’s highly successful, world-leading diabetes prevention programme is helping hundreds of thousands of people take small common sense steps to get control of their own health. But unless many more of us make a change, obesity-related illnesses will end up costing hundreds of thousands more lives and billions of pounds in higher treatment costs.”
NHS national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, Professor Jonathan Valabhji said: “As these stark figures show it is wrong to think that the obesity and diabetes crisis is limited to those in middle and old age – there around 115,000 younger people suffering Type 2 diabetes or at risk of developing the condition.
“The NHS Long Term Plan sets out the part we are playing to tackle the situation including piloting low calorie diets to achieve Type 2 diabetes remission, and doubling capacity of our world leading NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme that can prevent people developing in the first place.”
The Diabetes Prevention Programme, which lasts between nine and 12 months, is designed to stop or delay the onset of illness through advice and support on healthier eating and physical exercise.
The increasing numbers of people receiving help from the programme come alongside an announcement last year that more will now benefit from digital services, including wearable tech and online peer support groups, to help more people to benefit from the programme.
Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have Type 2 and there were over a million obesity diagnoses in hospital admissions last year, 884,000 the year before.
Projections show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 extra people suffering a heart attack in 2035, over 50,000 experiencing a stroke, while one in six hospital beds now occupied with someone with diabetes.
Chris Askew, chief executive at Diabetes UK, said: “The record number of people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes demonstrates the need for urgent action to stop its rapid growth. More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes − and the devastating complications it can lead to − could be prevented or delayed by supporting people to reduce their risk by losing weight where appropriate, eating healthy food and being more active.
“The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, designed to help prevent type 2 diabetes in people at high risk of developing the condition, is currently reaching ambitious targets both for numbers undertaking the programme, and for the weight loss they achieve. This much awaited expansion is a great step towards the right direction. Piloting a low calorie weight management programme, making it possible to put the condition into remission, has the potential to completely transform the lives of those already living with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.”