People at the highest risk of type 2 diabetes should be given intensive exercise and weight loss help by the NHS, according to NICE.

Healthcare professionals, from GPs to community nurses and pharmacists, should refer people with elevated blood sugars to exercise classes and nutrition courses, NICE has said in updated guidance.

NICE has identified 1.7 million people as having the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is based upon them having a fasting glucose between 6.5-6.9mmol/l.

Evidence suggests that people with high fasting glucose can avoid diabetes by changing their lifestyle. As such, NICE is calling for them to be offered appropriate support and advice.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said: “We know that helping someone to make simple changes to their diet and exercise levels can significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And that this approach is a cost-effective way of managing an illness that currently costs the NHS around £8.8 billion a year.”

Lifestyle change programmes, such as the ‘Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme’ developed by NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) aim to help people to change their diet and increase their physical activity. 

NICE says people with very high fasting glucose (between 6.5-6.9mmol/l) should be given priority when allocating places on intensive lifestyle change programmes.

“We need to make sure that the people most at risk have access to the care they need. This is why this updated guidance from NICE is so important, it will help NHS England and Public Health England to prioritise when necessary” Professor Baker added.

There are approximately 3.8 million people with diabetes in the UK, of which 90% have type 2.