Healthcare news

£1m a day spent treating diabetes in north as cases soar

The numbers living with diabetes in Northern Ireland are higher than ever before, with 88,305 on the official register and over £1m being spent daily on treatment
Gareth McKeown

AROUND £1 million is being spent every day treating diabetes-related conditions in Northern Ireland.

More than 88,000 people are officially registered with the condition, a rise of 55 per cent in just nine years.

In addition, 1,300 under-17s have Type 1 diabetes and an estimated 12,000 people are living with Type 2 diabetes but are undiagnosed.

Symptoms include feeling thirsty, tiredness, weight loss and needing the toilet more than usual.

Around one in 10 diabetes sufferers have Type 1, which is treated by daily insulin doses. New prime minister Theresa May is among those to have been diagnosed.

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and usually occurs in older age. It is treated with healthy diet and physical activity.

An estimated 10 per cent of the north's health and social care budget in spent treating diabetes and related conditions, according to health minister Michelle O'Neill.

A 2011 report described diabetes as a "massive and growing threat to the health of the people of Northern Ireland", with Iain Foster of Diabetes UK saying the north was in the "middle of a diabetes epidemic".

It was also predicted that by 2020, more than 94,000 people would have diabetes due to a combination of obesity, population growth and ageing.

The official register grew by four per cent in the last year.

In response to assembly questions earlier this month from Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler, Ms O'Neill referred to the difficulties in treating diabetes.

She said it was "complex" and "requires inputs from across a range of programmes of care".

Brendan Heaney of Diabetes UK in Northern Ireland said action must be taken to curb the worrying rise of diabetes.

“The latest figures confirm that diabetes is impacting on more and more families across Northern Ireland and we need urgent action to address this," he said.

"A new Diabetes Strategy published earlier this year if fully implemented has the potential to reduce the numbers of people developing Type 2 diabetes which we know is preventable.

"Early diagnosis and early intervention in primary care will also reduce complications of the condition which can lead to stroke, sight loss, amputation and kidney failure," he said.

"Human and financial resources must be invested by health trusts to improve diabetes care and new opportunities for people to learn to take control of their condition through good quality diabetes self-management programmes."

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