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NHS England patients with Type 1 diabetes will now be eligible for life-changing continuous glucose monitors after the health service secured a new cut-price deal.
The wearable arm gadget sends information to a mobile app and allows diabetes patients to keep track of their glucose levels at all times without having to scan or take a finger prick test.
Traditionally, continuous glucose monitors are more expensive than their flash monitor counterparts – which record glucose levels by scanning a sensor – but thanks to the NHS agreeing on a new cost-effective deal with manufacturers DEXCOM, they will now be available for NHS patients on prescription at a similar price.
The monitor, called Dexcom ONE Real Time-Continuous Glucose Monitoring, uses a sensor no bigger than a bottle cap that attaches to the arm for up to 10 days and measures glucose levels from just under the skin.
Patients will receive their starter pack – which will include information on the product and usage, a sensor and transmitter – from the hospital or GP surgery once prescribed, after which they can go to the pharmacy for their repeat prescription
The deal comes after the NHS surpassed its initial Long Term Plan target to ensure 20% of people with Type 1 diabetes were benefiting from flash monitors by March 2021 ahead of schedule – with recent data showing nearly three-fifths are already accessing the technology.
The wider rollout of the technology will help diabetes patients manage their condition better – reducing hospitalisations and associated diabetic illnesses which will ultimately ease pressure off the NHS.
Dr Partha Kar, national speciality advisor for diabetes and obesity said: “This is a huge step forward for Type 1 diabetes care and these monitors will be life-changing for anyone with the illness – giving them more choice to manage their condition in the most convenient way possible – as well as the best chance at living healthier lives, reducing their risk of hospitalisation and illnesses associated with diabetes, which in turn reduces pressure on wider NHS services.
“The new deal also delivers on our commitment to get patients the latest cutting-edge medical technology at the best value for taxpayer money – saving the NHS millions over the coming years”.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This is another important step for the NHS in treating people with Type 1 diabetes. CGM makes a huge difference to people living with diabetes – it is truly transformational. I am pleased that the NHS has already surpassed the target in the Long Term Plan for the number of people benefiting from flash monitoring. There is more to do but these are huge steps forward”.
Health Minister James Morris said: “This is an excellent example of how technology can help people manage their long-term conditions from the comfort of their own homes, reducing pressure on the NHS and improving health outcomes for patients.
“We’re determined to harness the latest technology to improve healthcare across the country. Thanks to the NHS for negotiating this great deal which delivers value for money and benefits patients”.
Karen Baxter, Vice President, UK and Ireland, Benelux, France and Spain at Dexcom: “The addition of Dexcom ONE to the NHS England drug tariff is enormous progress towards improving the choice of diabetes tech, providing an alternative to burdensome finger pricks and scanning.
“We are incredibly proud of the diabetes community and are working hard to make it easier for them to access the best technology possible to manage their diabetes. As a next step, we will be working closely with healthcare professionals to ensure the diabetes community can benefit as quickly as possible from reimbursement and the wider availability of Dexcom CGM”.
Andy Lavender, 56, has been living with Type 1 Diabetes since he was two years old. He is a Live Well co-ordinator for the NHS and a local chair for the charity Diabetes UK.
In his role as a local chair, Andy speaks to people living with diabetes and the problems they face on a day-to-day basis.
Andy said: “I hope this will be the beginning of the end of people needing to draw blood several times a day to test their blood glucose. My CGM changed my life, I would test my bloods 14 times a day and now I just look at my smartphone and my blood glucose is there.
“I know many people won’t test blood glucose in public or in a coffee shop and they will go to the toilet to test, but now they can just glance at the screen. It’s less painful, less stressful and far better to control a condition that can be affected by so many things”.
Elise and Rochelle Featherstone, twin sisters aged 25, work for the West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board and are both living with Type 1 Diabetes. Elise was diagnosed with the condition aged just 5 and Rochelle was diagnosed a year later.
The sisters started using continuous monitors in June 2019 and describe their experience of the technology as life-changing, dramatically improving their health as well as reducing the negative connotations associated with diabetes.
The NHS spends around £10 billion a year on treating diabetes, with the Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Programme aiming to prevent thousands of people from developing the illness and free up NHS resources in the long term.
A multitude of other diabetes treatments has also been made available on the NHS to give patients more choice over their care, such as the Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitor.