Diabetes diagnosis rates driven up by GP practices

Practices in England are closing the gap between detected cases of diabetes and true levels of disease, QOF data suggest.

Public health observatories have estimated diabetes prevalence in England, including undiagnosed cases, at 3.1 million in 2010. This increased by 64,881 between 2009 and 2010.

But the number of patients recorded as having diabetes on English QOF registers grew more than this - by 117,124 - between the financial years 2009/10 and 2010/11. This suggests GPs in England diagnosed and recorded around 52,000 more diabetes cases last year than would be expected from increases in prevalence alone.

Achievement of points for diabetes indicators within the QOF rose from 95.2 to 96.1 per cent in 2010/11.

Commenting on the growing prevalence, Baroness Barbara Young, Diabetes UK chief executive, said: 'The rate of increase of diabetes is growing with huge human cost and cost to the NHS. The time for action is now.'

She added that while rates of other conditions including cancers, heart disease and stroke are steady or declining, the growing 'epidemic' of diabetes continues to accelerate.

'We must reverse this trend if more people are not going to suffer unnecessarily and if diabetes is not going to bankrupt the NHS. Around 10 per cent of NHS spending goes on diabetes and its complications; this equates to £9 billion per year or £1 million an hour.'

There are currently 17 indicators for diabetes worth 92 points - almost a tenth of the £1 billion QOF funding.

GP negotiators are due to begin talks over next year's QOF by the end of 2011. The 'menu' of indicators for consideration includes an offer of structured education and a dietary review for patients with diabetes.

QOF data for Scotland and Wales in 2010/11 has yet to be released but Diabetes UK has estimated that cases diagnosed by practices UK-wide will have increased by 130,000 compared with the previous year.

Stephen Robinson

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