RA dayA new study published online in the journal International Journal of Pharmacy Practice reveals that conducting type 2 diabetes risk assessments in community pharmacy can help to identify significant numbers of patients at risk of type 2 diabetes. 

According to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia, almost a third (29%) of the analysed risk assessments yielded a result of moderate (1 in 7) or high (1 in 3) chance of developing the condition in the next 10 years. 60% of risk assessments were conducted on people considered overweight or obese.

Through the service, pharmacists provide personalised advice on how people can take control of their health and manage their Type 2 diabetes risk. Those found to be at high risk are referred to their GP to have a diagnostic test.

Dr Richard Brice, GPSI (GP with a special interest) in diabetes and chairman of Whitstable Medical Practice comments: “I’m very encouraged that this study shows how easy and accessible a risk assessment tool can be delivered on a population basis. We already know how prevalent type 2 diabetes is, and one of the keys to fighting this epidemic is to identify those at risk of going on to develop the condition and giving them advice, empowering those individuals to reduce their risk through simple lifestyle steps. Additionally, all the evidence tells us that the earlier we detect diabetes, the easier and more effective the treatments are. Hence I’m all in favour of easy and accessible, evidence based risk assessment programs which can be the first step towards prevention or early detection of type 2 diabetes.”

The type 2 diabetes risk assessment is a short questionnaire, developed by Diabetes UK, the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust to highlight a person’s risk of developing the condition over ten years. Patients answer seven questions related to age, gender, waist circumference, Body Mass Index, ethnic background, blood pressure and family history. Boots UK is a convenient and alternative port of call within the community for those looking for expert pharmacy face-to-face advice and support on how to reduce their risk of long-term conditions like diabetes.

Peter Bainbridge, Director of Pharmacy at Boots UK, comments: “The research shows the diabetes risk assessments our pharmacy teams perform on a daily basis play an important role in supporting early detection, so patients can take steps to prevent or take control of the condition sooner. As the prevention and management of long term conditions such as diabetes continues to dominate the public health agenda, this research demonstrates the overall value community pharmacy can offer, providing convenient access to healthcare support and services – in turn reducing the strain on other parts of the NHS.”

The study analysed the outcome of patients accessing the Diabetes UK type 2 risk assessment available in Boots UK stores following its launch in January 2013. 21,302 risk assessments were conducted between the beginning of January 2013 and the end of September 2013 in 1,513 Boots UK pharmacies; 3,513 assessments were included in the analysis. The findings reveal almost a third (29%) of the analysed risk assessments yielded a result of moderate or high chance of developing the condition, with 60% being conducted on people considered overweight or obese.

Simon O’Neill, Director of Health Intelligence and Professional Liaison at Diabetes UK, said: “There are around 7 million people who are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and another estimated 630,000 who have undiagnosed Type 2. It is great that risk assessments for Type 2 diabetes are now available on the high street as it is really important that as many of these people get a risk assessment so that if they are at high risk they can start getting the help they need to reduce their risk, while if they have undiagnosed Type 2 they can start getting the support that can help get it under control. I would urge people to have their risk assessed if they are overweight, over 40, or over 25 if they are from a South Asian background, or have a close relative with diabetes.”

Dr Michael Twigg, Independent Research Fellow from the University of East Anglia’s School of Pharmacy, said: “This is another piece of evidence that supports the role of the community pharmacist in identifying patients at risk of developing a chronic condition. This service utilised the skills of all of the Pharmacy team in helping to identify a large number of people who could start to make lifestyle changes now, before it is too late. Further work in this area should determine how this kind of service can link with the rest of the primary care team.”