Preventing diabetes 'should be as accessible as stopping smoking'

Diabetes prevention schemes 'should be as accessible as smoking cessation programmes', a senior GP who helped design the new national programme has said.

Dr Charles Alessi: backing diabetes prevention plan (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Charles Alessi: backing diabetes prevention plan (Photo: JH Lancy)

The NHS diabetes prevention programme, launched today, aims to prevent the condition developing in high-risk people in England.

Dr Charles Alessi, from Public Health England and the National Association of Primary Care, told GP that patients should be able to self-refer to diabetes prevention programmes to take the burden off doctors.

‘There are millions of ways people can be referred for smoking cessation services -they can contact centres directly, go through community pharmacy, be referred by primary care or from hospitals,’ he said. ‘The same sorts of approaches are going to be used here. It’s not about a single door to enter treatment.’

‘It would be quite unwise to think that they only way people can get into a programme is through a GP referral, because otherwise we would be putting pressure on general practice at a time when we’re trying to do the opposite.’

Increased workload

The programme has raised concerns about additional burden on GPs, who will be asked to invite at-risk patients for a blood test and advice or treatment.

But Dr Alessi said that the programme should not add significantly to GP workload.

‘We’re not talking about mass screening here. What we’re doing is identifying people who are at high risk and getting them to take control over their own health. We’ll be working with GPs to not only identify these, but give them the potential to refer them as they need to.’

GPs have raised concerns about the lack of sufficient local resources to refer people to when they’re identified at being at risk of developing disease, Dr Alessi said.

‘If GPs determine that they want to refer people into a programme, it should be done as easily as possible.

‘GPs will be absolutely pivotal here – they’ll need to engage in the programme if it’s going to be successful. We want to do it in a way that doesn’t overburden general practice, because clearly that’s not what they need at the moment,' he said.

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