No sympathy for diabetics weighing down NHS with bad eating habits

'Self-inflicted' diabetics who have poor food and lifestyle choices get no sympathy from Steven Down

'Self-inflicted' diabetics who have poor food and lifestyle choices get no sympathy from Steven Downes (Picture: Getty) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

One of the main reasons why the NHS is creaking is because it is weighed down by so many people unfairly labelled 'burdens'.

Elderly bed-blockers, people with smoking-related conditions, drinkers (apart from middle-class alcoholics, who are exempt from judgement because they are so outwardly respectable).

All of these people get it in the neck for having the cheek to need the health care they've been paying for every working day of their lives.

But one rapidly-burgeoning group manages to dodge the bullet – despite hardly being nimble.

Type two diabetics costs the NHS a fortune, yet somehow choosing to sit on your butt and wolf junk food isn't as deserving of admonition as choosing to put a roll-up in your mouth and take a puff.

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But 10pc of our health services' money is spent on treating diabetes and its effects. That's £13bn in a year.

Lest there be any confusion, let's take proper diabetes out of the firing line.

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Type one diabetes is an autoimmune condition that cannot be predicted or prevented. It is indiscriminate.

Two of my close relatives were diagnosed at ages two and six. They have since faced daily insulin injections and finger-prick blood sugar tests, plus dietary monitoring.

If you ask them what they think of people with type two diabetes – which is largely self-inflicted through poor diet and lack of exercise – prepare for a tirade.

But first, a DISCLAIMER

As is usually the case, generalisations are dangerous. So let me make it clear that some people who have type two diabetes can do nothing about it - it's genetic.

But my type one diabetic relatives do not understand why those without a genetic predisposition towards diabetes would be stupid enough to risk blindness, amputations, organ failure and premature death.

They would do anything to get rid of their diabetes, so have no sympathy for the couch taters.

So, for avoidance of confusion, let them be known as diabetes one and diabetes dumb.

Diabetes dumb affects the sort of people I see when I'm (virtuously) cycling to work in Norwich, sitting outside Greggs having a pie or sausage roll for breakfast.

It affects people who trundle around on disability scooters because they can't be bothered to walk, and need somewhere to put their chips and Coke so they can eat while on the move (no sense wasting good eating time).

It largely affects people who have consistently made stupid lifestyle choices that are just that – choices.

Unfortunately it's not as simple as being able to shrug it off in this way, for the cost to every one of us is immense.

The money spent on treating diabetes dumb could go to a more deserving cause, like cancer research, improving A&E services, providing more beds, etc.

That's why the NHS has found itself pressed into drastic action to cut off diabetes dumb at the pass.

Hence some pre-diabetics are getting an 800-calorie liquid daily diet on prescription.

If they take up the challenge successfully, they deserve enormous praise. Surviving on 800 calories a day is genuinely challenging.

A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed as pre-diabetic and completely overhauled his life, losing three stone, giving up beer and carbs and now being declared clear of the condition. He is awesome.

If people use the prescribed shakes to wash down doughnuts, they are a lost cause – but we'll still have to pay for their leg amputation.

I have nothing but praise for the NHS for finding ways to strike preemptively against diabetes dumb. It's all about cost and benefit.

But it just seems so sad that it's necessary.

Exercising regularly, and eating and drinking sensibly are among the basic responsibilities that we have – to ourselves, our loved ones, and to society.

It's an ironic mark of a 'developed' nation that those simple things are slipping away.

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