The escalating diabetes crisis is now costing the NHS almost £1 billion a year in prescriptions to treat and manage the disease. Total spending spiralled by £88 million over the last financial year and now makes up 10.6% of the total cost of all prescribing in GP surgeries and other primary care.
The £956.7 million cost for 2015-16 is almost double the £513.9 million spent in 2005-06, when diabetes drugs accounted for 6.6% of the overall spend. NHS Digital's report Prescribing for Diabetes 2005/06 to 2015/16 also shows that in the last financial year, 49.7 million prescription items were dispensed in England for the treatment and management of diabetes.
‘Spending on diabetes prescriptions has doubled in the last ten years in the UK. This could be triggered by factors like childhood obesity, sedentary lifestyle and poor living conditions.’
It means the taxpayer in England is spending around £2.6 million each day on drugs for all cases of the disease, of which a significant proportion are linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.
The data from NHS Digital, formerly the Health and Social Care Information Centre, shows that the average percentage of all GP-registered patients aged 17 and over being treated for diabetes has increased from 5.3% in 2009-10 to 6.4% in 2014-15. This means there are now at least 2.9 million adults receiving treatment for diabetes.
In certain GP areas the cost of prescribing diabetes drugs as a proportion of overall spending far exceeded the national average. Data has revealed diabetes is most common in the West Midlands, closely followed by Lancashire and Greater Manchester, Cumbria and the North East and then the North Midlands. The South East, South Central and Wessex had the lowest prevalence of diabetes. The data was split by NHS region.
Newham Clinical Commissioning Group, for example, spent 17.9% of its prescription budget on diabetes treatment and maintenance in 2015-16. The new figures also reveal a stark variation in the amount spent per diabetes patient depending on GP area.
In Northumberland and net ingredient cost per patient was £238, the lowest, compared to £414, the highest, in Warwickshire North.
Authorities fear that the crisis in diabetes will be further fuelled by growing levels of obesity in children and young people. In May it was revealed there are now more than 500 cases of Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to poor lifestyle, among children, compared to virtually none at the turn of the century.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said the Government was establishing the world's first diabetes prevention program to stop people developing the disease in the first place.
"We know childhood is the best place to start with a healthy lifestyle," he said. "Our comprehensive childhood obesity strategy will build on measures we are already taking, like the soft drinks industry levy," he added.
Nevertheless the Government faced criticism last month after it indicated that publication of the long-awaited Childhood Obesity Strategy would be delayed until the autumn, despite pleas from the head of the NHS to act quickly to protect the most vulnerable children in society.