Members of the Lords debated the management of diabetic services in the NHS yesterday (Thursday 29 November).
Lord Harrison (Labour) requested the debate. Himself a type 1 diabetic, he described how the condition is currently treated within the NHS and asked what improvements could be made. He spoke of diabetes as ‘the UK’s number one health threat’ and implored ‘action now on this killer disease is imperative.’
In a wide ranging speech, covering subjects including the responsibility of education services to meet the needs of children with diabetes and the experience of diabetics in hospitals, he drew particular attention to the need for ‘an integrated approach to the treatment of diabetes as a whole’.
Lord Kakkar (Crossbench), a professor of surgery and consultant surgeon, expanded on this argument. He stated that ‘it is quite right to say that multidisciplinary care is vital’ and asked ‘what progress has been made with regard to putting at the centre of diabetic care the provision of integrated care pathways?’
Lord Rennard (Liberal Democrat), a type 2 diabetic, declared an interest as the director of communications of the British Healthcare Trade Association. He also addressed the need for change in current NHS management strategies to address the inequalities in the quality of diabetes care across the UK.
He said: ‘The development of integrated care pathways should be encouraged as a means of reducing the postcode lottery of care for diabetes patients and reducing adverse outcomes of the disease, including mortality.’
Health Minister, Earl Howe (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government. He confirmed that the condition ‘is a priority for the government and, as a long term condition, it has been prioritised in the mandate for the NHS Commissioning Board.’ He also stressed that diabetes is ‘a key marker of improvements in the NHS.’
On the issue of ‘unwarranted variation in diabetes care’ he emphasised the government’s commitment to improving care and outcomes for people with diabetes.
He concluded: ‘The management of people with diabetes has not been optimised. There is no excuse for poor diabetes care. No one with diabetes should lose their leg or their vision if this could have been prevented. We know what needs to be done and we have to ensure we meet this challenge head on.’