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Avoidable diabetes will bankrupt the NHS

Posted in: General Health 26 Apr, 2012

Diabetes may ‘bankrupt’ the NHS within 20 years, according to a new study which was released today in the Diabetic Medicine journal. Treating diabetes-related conditions currently costs £9.8 billion, 10% of the entire NHS budget and it is set to rise to 17% within the next 25 years. The most shocking part of the report, however, was that four fifths of this money was spent on avoidable complications which can arise if the disease is not treated correctly or accurately diagnosed.

The report based its findings on the prediction that the number of people suffering from diabetes in the UK will almost double within the next 20 years, from 3.8 million to 6.25 million. Bearing in mind that 75% of people with diabetes suffer from Type 2, which is mostly caused by obesity, one has to wonder not only why are the complications not being avoided, but also why are there so many cases of a disease which is largely caused by lifestyle choices.

Ever since the 1980s, the government has been lauding the healthy ideal as a diet low in fat but high in carbohydrates, which was much the opposite of the general consensus at the time. Although cutting down on fat consumption will generally not be harmful, substituting large amounts of fat with refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal...) may limit problems such as high blood pressure or heart conditions in the short term, but with the majority of the UK population not reaching the recommended daily amount of exercise, this high carbohydrate intake is a cause for concern.

People who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes will likely be told by their doctor that by following a controlled diet and doing regular exercise the disease will be safely managed. A 2011 study showed that by changing their lifestyle habits for just eight weeks, 11 patients managed to completely reverse their condition and did not need to use the medication any more.

Smokers are criticised by news outlets and health corporations on a weekly basis because it seems absurd for people to voluntarily damage their health and then expect the taxpayer to foot the cost of the many medical procedures and treatments they will need to undergo. Is this a fair situation? Perhaps not, but the last available figures (2008) showed that a quarter of people in the UK were obese and the figure is rising, whereas only 21% of the population are smokers and percentages are decreasing every year.

Obesity inevitably causes severe health concerns which are widely publicised, yet Britain is still in the midst of an obesity epidemic, making us the ‘fattest’ country in Europe. Saying that Type 2 diabetes could bankrupt the NHS seems like a slight overstatement, but it is nice to see that for once we are addressing the fact that we are a nation with a severe weight problem and drastic action is needed in order to tackle it. Diabetes can have serious consequences and people are still eating themselves into an early grave. Perhaps chocolate and crisps should be sold in plain packaging, with record-breaking increases in VAT and warning labels saying: Diabetes can cause blindness, amputation and death.


  • abigail greenThursday, Jul 12, 2012

    Maybe you need to see it as if the GPs didnt do nothing, refuse us a proper diabetes specialist or treatments complications wouldnt be so high. I last saw a diabetes professional when i was 17. Nothing since. im 31!!!!!

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