Patients with type 1 diabetes to get artificial pancreas on the NHS

An ‘artificial pancreas’ designed to revolutionise the life of people with Type 1 diabetes will be provided by the NHS, 100 years after the discovery of insulin, health service chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced today.

Speaking at NHS Confederation’s conference this morning, Sir Simon said that up to 1,000 patients will benefit from a pilot of the innovative ‘closed loop technology’, which continually monitors blood glucose and automatically adjusts the amount of insulin given through a pump. It can eliminate finger prick tests and prevent life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks.

This means the NHS is going above and beyond its Long Term Plan goal on non-invasive glucose monitoring, with two in five people with Type 1 diabetes already now benefiting from this technology.

Devices like Freestyle Libre are worn under the skin and continuously monitor glucose levels. Patients can scan the sensor to get a reading.

Sir Simon Stevens said: “Living with diabetes is a daily challenge for millions of people across England, and this closed loop technology has the potential to make a remarkable difference to their lives.

“In a year that marks a century since insulin was discovered – which revolutionised the world of diabetes – this innovation is a prime example of the NHS’s continued progress in modern medicine and technology.”

Professor Partha Kar, NHS national speciality advisor for diabetes, said: “One hundred years after the discovery of insulin, the ‘artificial pancreas’ is a potentially revolutionary development in the treatment of diabetes.

“The NHS has long been at the forefront of clinical advances in care for major diseases, including diabetes, which have allowed patients to live longer and healthier lives.

“We have already outperformed the goals in the NHS Long Term Plan for better diabetes care, and this new technology is an extension of the fantastic work achieved by the NHS, third sector and industry partners who are working together to improve the lives of patients.”

The NHS Long Term Plan committed to making non-invasive glucose monitoring technology available to 20% of diabetics and all pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes.

The health service delivered on these ambitions, with maternity services across the country now able to offer non invasive glucose monitors to expectant mothers and over 40% of people living with Type 1 diabetes benefiting from flash glucose monitoring.

Hybrid closed-loop insulin delivery systems automatically balance blood sugar levels by constantly measuring glucose and delivering insulin directly to the bloodstream when needed. Not only does this offer better glucose control and significantly reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia, it can also relieve some of the mental burden on patients and caregivers, who otherwise must remain constantly vigilant to blood sugar levels.

Up to 1,000 patients from around 25 specialist diabetes centres in England will benefit from the pilot programme.

Participating centres will submit data via the NHS’s world-leading National Diabetes Audit and the results will feed into the evidence assessment undertaken by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).