Around eight in ten people with Type 1 diabetes now have access to life-changing technology, thanks to cost-effective deals secured for patients and rapidly rolled out by the NHS.
Just over 200,000 patients are now using non-invasive glucose monitoring devices (CGMs) that allow people to check their glucose levels more easily and regularly – up by a third (around 50,000) compared to the spring.
This summer, the NHS announced patients with Type 1 diabetes would be eligible for continuous glucose monitors – after securing a deal to ensure they cost a similar price to flash monitors – and already almost two-thirds of local NHS areas are offering these devices to patients.
The newer wearable arm gadget sends information automatically to a mobile app and allows diabetes patients to always keep track of their glucose levels without having to scan or take a finger prick test.
Flash monitors work in the same way as continuous monitors, except a patient using a flash monitor uses a device to run a check on their smartphone to get a reading.
The latest rollout figures show the NHS is going well above and beyond its original Long Term Plan target from 2019 to ensure 20% of people with Type 1 diabetes would benefit from flash monitors.
The NHS aims for all integrated care boards (ICBs) to be offering both monitors in 2023 and the wider rollout of this technology will help diabetes patients manage their condition better – reducing hospital admissions and associated diabetes complications which will ultimately ease the pressure off the NHS.
In line with NICE guidance, patients will be offered either monitor depending on their needs following consultation with a local clinician.
Professor Partha Kar, National Specialty Advisor for Diabetes said: “The NHS has revolutionised diabetes care over the past five years – we’ve seen people living with type 1 diabetes go from having almost no practical way to manage their condition in real-time, to having the option of a lifechanging device that automatically alerts patients to potentially dangerous changes to their blood sugar levels.
“As a diabetes clinician, I’ve seen first-hand how liberating this device is for my patients, giving them the confidence to go about their days knowing they are safe and able to enjoy themselves.
“The majority of the NHS has already rolled out these new devices, but the NHS rollout will continue at pace to ensure both devices are available to every patient across the country by the end of next year”.
One person who has benefited from having access to a non-invasive glucose monitoring device to help with their diabetes is Ralph Bostock, a 38 years old oceanographer from Hampshire, who has Type 1 diabetes. Ralph lives a very active life, but found trying to get used to finger prick tests whilst working and exercising extremely difficult.
After seeing the NHS’s announcement that CGMs would be available through the health service, Ralph contacted his consultant who arranged for him to get a Dexcom starter kit a few weeks later.
Ralph said: “It’s still early days with the CGM, but the results over the last two months are very promising. Using my CGM has enabled me to return to work and continue my passion for water sports.
“I find that 30-60 minute training or events are easy to manage. My race surf ski – a very long and wobbly kayak – though exceedingly fast, is a terrible craft for a diabetic to use as it’s so tipply that if you stop paddling for more than a few seconds then you capsize – so not the easiest to check your blood sugar!
“Combining my CGM with a suitable smartwatch has allowed for much more frequent blood glucose checks – allowing me to stay healthier which is ultimately much safer too. My CGM feels like the next evolutionary step – it’s a very exciting time to be a diabetic!”
The continuous glucose monitor, officially called Real-Time Continuous Glucose Monitoring (RTCGM), 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 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.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Hundreds of thousands of patients now have access to this cutting-edge technology – helping them to better manage their diabetes whether they’re at home or on the move.
“It’s another example of how we’re using technology to improve outcomes for patients, while reducing pressure on frontline services and this will help reduce hospitalisations and diabetic illnesses.
“The NHS has rolled out these devices at pace, and even more patients stand to benefit from this life-saving technology from the spring”.