Diabetes prescriptions cost NHS in England over £1bn in 2017/18

The NHS in England spent more than £1bn on diabetes prescriptions in 2017/18, accounting for 11% of the total cost of prescribing in primary care, new figures from NHS Digital show.

(Photo: iStock.com/stocknshares)

The statistics show that 53.4m items were prescribed for diabetes in 2017/18 - 1.4m more than in 2016/17.

The total cost of diabetes prescriptions has risen by more than £422m in the last ten years - from £591m in 2007/8 to £1.01bn in 2017/18 - while the number of items prescribed has risen by 22m, from 31m in 2007/8 to 53.4m in 2017/18.

Some 5% of all 1.1bn items prescribed in primary care were for drugs or devices used in diabetes, meaning that one in every 20 prescriptions written by GPs are now for diabetes.

According to QOF data, the prevalence of diabetes in patients aged over 17 has risen from 5.3% in 2009/10 to 6.8% in 2017/18.

The National Diabetes Audit showed that in 2017/18 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

GP prescribing

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that the rates of type 2 diabetes highlighted that GPs needed more time with their patients to be able to discuss lifestyle changes.

'For many patients with diabetes, medication is essential to help them manage their condition and live a good quality of life,' Professor Stokes-Lamapard said. 'But we also know that making straightforward lifestyle changes, for example, eating a healthy and balanced diet, losing weight and exercising more can prevent, delay, or sometimes even reverse type 2 diabetes.

'GPs and our teams will have these often quite sensitive conversations with our patients, but our profession is currently operating under intense resource pressures and there is a limit to what we can realistically do within the constraints of the standard 10-minute consultation – and offering longer appointments means offering fewer appointments at a time when patients are already waiting too long to see their GP.'

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