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Diabetes “could bankrupt NHS” within a generation

4.4 million UK diabetics by 2020
Barbara Young

According to the charity Diabetes UK, the number of people with diabetes in the UK is expected to increase by 700,000 in the next eight years, reaching 4.4 million by 2020.

The rise in the number of people with the condition will put a significant financial strain on the NHS, which is already spending 10% of its budget on treating people with diabetes.

The charity, which analysed figures from the Yorkshire and Humber Public Health Observatory, said the vast majority of new cases will be type 2 diabetes, a direct result of unhealthy lifestyles and obesity.

“The healthcare system is already at breaking point in terms of its ability to provide care for people with diabetes and the result is that many people are developing health complications that could have been avoided and are dying early as a result,” said the Diabetes UK’s chief executive Barbara Young. “We face the very real prospect of the rise in the number of people with the condition combining with NHS budget pressures to create a perfect storm that threatens to bankrupt the NHS.”

Diabetes UK said that at present about 3.7 million people in Britain have diabetes, including an estimated 850,000 people who have type 2 diabetes but do not know it. It is calling for the government to fund a public health campaign to raise awareness about the condition.

"If this projected increase becomes reality, it would be a calamity for the healthcare system and a disaster for public health,” said Young. “But the Government and the NHS do not seem to have grasped the scale of the impending crisis and at the moment we seem to be sleepwalking towards it. But the crucial point is that it is still not too late to take the action needed to avert it."

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