May 31, 2022
More than 3,000 diabetics in England may have died due to a lack of health checks during the first year of Covid, a major NHS study warns.
The review of more than 3million diabetic patients found a massive drop-off in critical checks and tests for diabetes patients in 2020, after the first two lockdowns.
Diabetes patients are meant to have check-ups and tests to look for heart problems, infection or other changes that could be deadly.
But researchers found just 26.5 per cent received their full set of checks in England 2020/21, compared with 48 per cent the previous year.
They said diabetes took a ‘double mortality hit’ when the NHS moved to remote working and routine appointments were cancelled to focus on Covid.
The study, led by NHS bosses, compared deaths among diabetics in a 15-week period in summer 2021 with the same period in 2019.
They found non-Covid related deaths among diabetes patients rose 11 per cent over this period, an extra 3,075 fatalities than would normally be expected.
Diabetes charities said the study showed sufferers had been ‘pushed to the back of the queue’ during the pandemic and had suffered ‘absolutely devastating consequences’ as a result.
The authors, which include Professor Jonathan Valabhji, the NHS’s national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, linked the deaths to the fall in health checks during lockdown.
The study also found patients who did not get all their diabetes health checks before the onset of the pandemic were 66 per cent more likely to die than those who did.
In total, the study found only 26.5 per cent of diabetes patients received all eight checks between April 2020 and March 2021 compared to 48.1 per cent of patients the year prior, a decrease in test coverage of 44.8 per cent.
When comparing death records researchers looked a fatalities among diabetes patients between July and October in both 2021 and 2019.
There were 30,118 non-Covid deaths in people with diabetes during the 2021 period.
The analysis of mortality data only covered a 15-week period in England, meaning the UK toll is likely to be much higher.
Reacting to the study Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, told the Telegraph: ‘This sobering study underlines in stark detail what we have been saying for some time about the backlog in diabetes care.
‘Diabetes is serious, and missed routine diabetes checks can be absolutely devastating. If people with diabetes cannot receive the care they need, they can risk life-altering complications and, sadly, early death.’
Professor Valabhji, also said: ‘This research highlights the importance of annual reviews and ongoing supported management for people living with diabetes to manage their condition well.’
‘The NHS made significant progress in increasing the number of people with diabetes completing all care processes before the pandemic, and data published last month suggests we are heading in the right direction again.
‘Continuing to increase these numbers remains our top priority, and we are supporting local systems with £36 million in funding to help them increase uptake and tackle health inequalities.’
The NHS analysis was published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
There an estimated 3.9million people with diabetes, a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high, in the UK.
In the US, the condition affects around 37.3million Americans, about a tenth of the population.
The diabetes analysis comes just a day after another study found global heart attack deaths soared by a fifth during the pandemic,
An analysis of nearly 200 studies by researchers from Leeds University found deaths among people hospitalised due to severe heart problems jumped 17 per cent in two years.
Patients also waited for more than an hour longer than usual for cardiac and heart attack callouts between December 2019 to December 2021. And the number of heart operations carried out globally fell by 34 per cent.