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Number of UK diabetes patients tops five million for the first time

Number of UK diabetes patients tops five million for the first time
By Emma Wilkinson
14 April 2023

The number of people with diabetes in the UK has escalated to more than five million for the first time, an analysis from Diabetes UK suggests.

There are now 4.3 million people who have been diagnosed with the condition and a further 850,000 who are thought to have diabetes but do not know they have it.

A further 2.4 million are at high risk of developing the condition, the charity said raising concerns that the 64% of adults in England living with overweight or obesity in the UK is contributing to the increase.

Between 2020/21 and 2021/22, cases rose by 148,951, the data shows.

Social deprivation is also an issue, the report said with factors such as income, education, housing, access to healthy food, as well as poorer access to healthcare, having been shown to be strongly linked to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.   

The report also raised concern about rates of type 2 diabetes rising in those aged under 40, particularly in areas of deprivation. 

Diabetes UK said it was calling for a firm commitment to diabetes in the government’s Major Conditions Strategy, including a continued focus on identifying those at risk and referring them to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.   

And the Government needs to push ahead with its stalled obesity strategy without further delay, including implementing plans to limit junk food advertising to children, it added.  

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: ‘These latest figures show we’re in the grip of a rapidly escalating diabetes crisis, with spiralling numbers of people now living with type 2 diabetes and millions at high risk of developing the condition. 

‘But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right care and support, cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission.

‘What we need to see is the will, grit and determination from government and local health leaders to halt this crisis in its tracks and improve the future health of our nation for generations to come.’

Dr Stephen Lawrence, a GP and associate clinical professor at the University of Warwick, said figures suggested the number of people with undiagnosed diabetes – which used to be a million – is falling due to public awareness and the efforts of primary care teams.

‘Unfortunately, the scourge of Covid and the resulting lockdown of services has dealt a blow to progress in the diagnosis and management of diabetes,’ he added. 

‘Additionally, there are many publications citing increased sedentary lifestyles and obesity rates resulting from enforced social isolation policy deemed necessary for controlling viral spread during the pandemic.’

‘As we enter into a post-pandemic era there remains much catch-up work to be done and these figures from Diabetes UK signposting an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes represent a composite of the effect increased sedentary living during the pandemic coupled with the negative impact on the routine provision of usual care,’ he said.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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