NHS England is planning out a digital version of its diabetes prevention programme to support the thousands of patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes but who cannot access face-to-face sessions.
Its established programme, the NHS diabetes prevention programme, was set up in 2016 to support high-risk patients from developing type 2 diabetes and offered face-to-face support such as advice on lifestyle choices and bespoke activity programmes.
GPs will be able to refer patients to the new digital stream that will offer similar support, but through digital interventions like wearable technology, apps to access health coaches and online peer support groups.
The expansion follows a number of pilot schemes that showed out of over 5,000 people that were offered digital support, almost seven in 10 took part in the scheme. This compares to around half of those offered face-to-face sessions.
From this month, up to a fifth of places will be delivered digitally, around 40,000, according to NHS England.
The digital approach forms part of the Long-Term Plan’s ambition to prevent more disease as well as expanding treatment. The programme will be doubled so 200,000 people can access it every year.
NHS England has also stated it will trial very low-calorie diets that can reverse type 2 diabetes.
NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity Jonathan Valabhji, said: ‘The diabetes prevention programme has been a tremendous success for thousands of people already, and this new digital pilot further builds on that success.
‘I’m delighted to see such a positive response among younger working-age people, which shows how a digital approach can expand the reach of patients’ services as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan.’
Public Health England diabetes programme director Dr Jennifer Smith said: ‘The success of the pilot’s early findings shows we are breaking new ground to help those most at risk of type 2 diabetes to literally take their health into their own hands at their own time and pace. Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a fabulous next step in diabetes prevention.’
It follows calls for the NHS to provide fitness trackers for vulnerable patients.
Last year, the RCGP launched training for GPs on low-carb diets.