One in six diabetes patients have had no contact with their healthcare teams since before the pandemic, a new report has revealed.

The report by Diabetes UK found that despite the “tireless efforts” of NHS staff, diabetes patients have been “pushed to the back of the queue” during the pandemic.

With roughly 4.9 million people now living with diabetes in the UK, and diabetes registrations continuing to grow, experts are warning that unless diabetes patients are prioritised urgently, thousands of lives will be put at risk.

The impact of poverty on diabetes patients

The report is informed by a survey of more than 10,000 people living with and affected by diabetes.

It found that nearly half (47%) had experienced difficulties managing their condition in 2021, with the figure rising to 56% in the most deprived areas of the country.

While 63% attributed this to not having sufficient access to their healthcare team, this figure rose again to 71% in the most deprived areas.

The researchers say this is concerning as access to essential care can prevent serious illness and early mortality from the cardiovascular complications of diabetes.

“This is not acceptable or sustainable. Neglect of diabetes care stores up problems for later and impacts on all parts of the NHS system. It impedes recovery of elective care when people are not fit for surgery or need longer hospital stays due to poor health of their condition,” they write.

Dr Kate Fayers and Dr Hermione Price, Consultant Diabetologists at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, say they are “extremely concerned” about the impact of poverty on diabetes patients.

They said: “The pandemic has thrown up intense new pressures for our patients and we are extremely concerned about the real burning impact of poverty. Some of our patients do not even have the basics necessary to manage their diabetes, including a patient who couldn’t afford a fridge to store their insulin, this makes good diabetes control practically impossible.”

Diabetes UK is urging the government to implement a national recovery plan

For this reason, Diabetes UK is urging the government to implement a national recovery plan to prevent the consequences of delayed diabetes care for both the NHS and people living with diabetes. This includes addressing the staffing crisis so that people can access the vital support they need.

The charity would also like to see “a renewed commitment” to improving outcomes for people with diabetes (and those who are risk of diabetes) in the forthcoming refresh of the NHS Long Term Plan, as well as the funding to make this happen.

Finally, Diabetes UK says Integrated Care Systems should urgently draw up plans to catch up on the backlog of diabetes care, so that by 2022, everyone with diabetes has had a review of the key care processes and their care plan.