GPs should 'immediately' refer children with potential diabetes, says NICE

GPs should immediately refer children and young people with suspected diabetes to hospital so they can be seen by a specialist on the same day, NICE has said.

NICE released a new quality standard on diabetes in children and young people on Thursday, which urges GPs to refer suspected cases of type 1 or type 2 diabetes for same-day treatment in hospital.

Patients with symptoms such as feeling very thirsty or tired, needing to urinate more often or who have recently lost weight without trying to should be sent to hospital without delay, it said.

NICE emphasised that ‘prompt diagnosis is vital’, as diabetes causes tissue damage if left untreated. This in turn can lead to blindness, kidney failure, limb amputations and death.

NICE diabetes guidance

Around 26,400 children in the UK have type 1 diabetes, in addition to 500 who have type 2 diabetes.

RCGP diabetes lead Dr Stephen Lawrence said: ‘The aspirations from NICE are admirable, and a welcome addition to existing guidance – particularly for type 1 diabetes, having our patients that we suspect of having diabetes in front of a specialist within 24 hours is something that the college has called for.

‘While some colleagues may question the amalgamation of children with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, this does remove the not insignificant challenge and potential delay in making a definitive diagnosis in a child presenting with more equivocal signs of the disease.

‘However, it is essential that general practice, and onwards services, are resourced sufficiently in order for the new NICE recommendations to become a reality.

GP funding

‘We also need better joined up working across the health service, so that specialist services don’t become overloaded with any increase in demand, and that GPs don’t bear the brunt of criticism for simply following clinical guidance in the best interests of our patients.’

Professor Gillian Leng, NICE deputy chief executive, said: 'Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be a very difficult disease to manage for children and young people and their families, with a huge impact on their daily lives.

‘Diabetes teams should provide all the help that children and young people need to stay as healthy as possible, including psychological support through access to mental health professionals with an understanding of diabetes.’

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