A revolutionary hybrid closed loop system – also known as an ‘artificial pancreas’ – is being piloted in 35 NHS diabetes centres to test whether the technology can help people with type 1 diabetes safely and effectively control their condition.

The innovative technology 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 and hyperglycaemia attacks, which can lead to seizures, coma or even death for people living with type 1 diabetes.

The NHS in England currently spends around £10 billion a year on diabetes – around 10% of its entire budget.

Professor Partha Kar, NHS national speciality advisor for diabetes, said: “Having machines monitor and deliver medication for diabetes patients sounds quite sci-fi like, but when you think of it, technology and machines are part and parcel of how we live our lives every day.

“A device picks up your glucose levels, sends the reading across to the delivery system – aka the pump – and then the system kicks in to assess how much insulin is needed.

“It is not very far away from the holy grail of a fully automated system, where people with type 1 diabetes can get on with their lives without worrying about glucose levels or medication”.

Relieve the mental burden on people with type 1 diabetes

As well as the physical benefits, using hybrid closed loop (HCL) technology can also help relieve some of the mental burden on people with type 1 diabetes or their carers who otherwise must remain constantly vigilant to blood sugar levels.

The pilot has been designed to include a representative mix of adults and children living with type 1 diabetes from all backgrounds, to ensure this pilot considers the potential effectiveness of HCL.

Under the NHS’s pilot, all of the closed loop systems that are licenced for use within the UK are available to participants. Clinicians and patients or their carer discuss which is the best option for them and choose the HCL system they want.

Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “This technology has the potential to transform the lives of people with type 1 diabetes, improving both their quality of life and clinical outcomes.

“The trial will generate real-world data which will hopefully support the case for more people having access to this life-changing tech in the future. And while widening access to diabetes tech remains a priority for Diabetes UK, the NHS’ rollout of this scheme is a very significant and positive step in the right direction.

“We are proud of our legacy of artificial pancreas research and will continue to support NHS England as the pilot progresses”.

The data collected from the pilot, along with other evidence, will be considered by NICE as part of a technology assessment and it will make a recommendation about wider adoption within the NHS following a review of the evidence.