More support for pregnant women and people with a learning disability with diabetes

Thousands more people with diabetes will no longer need to do painful finger prick tests and instead will have life changing technology to help manage their condition on the NHS.

Pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes will be able to access a Continuous Glucose Monitor for 12 months, which automatically alerts users if their blood sugar is high to help them control their diabetes throughout their pregnancy.

Around 2,000 women are expected to benefit from the move, which will help women with Type 1 Diabetes give birth to healthier babies who are much less likely to need intensive care treatment post-birth.

In a major expansion of the flash rollout, people with a learning disability will also now be eligible for a flash glucose monitor to help manage any type of diabetes, provided they use insulin to treat their condition. Flash works in a similar way except users check their own blood sugar levels using a mobile app.

The device, which sticks to the skin, will let women track their sugar levels 24/7 and be notified by an alarm when their blood sugar is high or low and will help to reduce hypos, which can be fatal.

‘Flash’ is the size of a £2 coin and worn on the arm removes the need for people to carry out multiple painful finger-prick checks to monitor their blood sugar levels.

There are over 250,000 people with Type 1 diabetes in England, and around 75,000 patients are already benefiting from the rapid roll out of the technology since last April.

National research has shown use of the devices can improve glucose control, wellbeing and reduction in hospital admissions.

Professor Partha Kar, NHS national speciality advisor for diabetes said: “This is a major step forward – as this novel technology can make a massive difference for those living with diabetes. The expansion will have an instant effect for pregnant women and those with a learning disability and is just one example of how the NHS is continuing to make sure patients can benefit from the latest technologies.”

Remote monitoring conditions has played a major role during the pandemic in helping people stay in control of their health and has been especially important for people with diabetes – NHS research earlier this year showed increased mortality risk for people with the condition from COVID-19.

Up to three thousand people are expected to benefit from the roll out to people with a learning disability.

Last year NHS England made flash glucose monitors available on NHS prescription. Around 75,000 have now got the device on the NHS – giving tens of thousands of patients more confidence in living with their condition and living healthier lives.

Lucy, who has type 1 diabetes for four years, found out she was pregnant last year and started using a CGM model, Lucy said: “I was aware of the risks associated with Type 1 diabetes and pregnancy and I wanted to be really proactive in taking care of mine and my baby’s health.

“There’s a few things that the NHS recommends which are great but, for me, CGM was without a doubt the thing that went above and beyond anything else in terms of really helping me to manage my blood sugars and keeping them under control during my pregnancy with Type 1 diabetes – a time when glucose levels can become even more unpredictable.”

Bradley, who has Down’s syndrome, has had Type 1 diabetes since he was 9 months old and is now prescribed a flash glucose monitor on the NHS, his Dad Clifford said: “Before Flash, Bradley’s diabetes control was not good, and he always ran very high, it meant that we had to do regular finger-prick checks which Bradley absolutely hated – so much so that he actually developed severe anxiety about his hands being touched and we had to seek help and do hand exercises with him to try to reduce his anxiety.

“I always used to say to people that Bradley’s Down’s syndrome and it’s associated conditions are hardly any bother – it’s the diabetes that has the biggest impact on our lives. At least, until we got Flash.”

Helen Kirrane, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Diabetes UK, said: “This announcement will be a huge relief to many, and is an important step towards widening access to life-enhancing technology for people with diabetes.

“We know that diabetes technology can make a big difference as people with diabetes try to manage their condition during these difficult times.

“While healthcare services remain under enormous pressure, it is wonderful to see that pregnant women and people with learning disabilities will be getting the help they need to manage their condition as well as possible from home.”

Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “Type 1 diabetes can be tough to live with, and pregnant women with the condition face particular challenges. That is why we are especially pleased by this milestone, achieved in large part thanks to JDRF research that showed that CGM is cost-effective for pregnant women.”