Call to make insulin pumps more available

Campaigners are pressing Norfolk Primary Care Trust to make insulin pumps widely available to all patients with diabetes who may need them.

By Mark Nicholls

Health Correspondent

Campaigners are pressing Norfolk Primary Care Trust to make insulin pumps widely available to all patients with diabetes who may need them.

The North Norfolk Voluntary Group of the Diabetes UK claims that at present in the county insulin pumps are not regularly prescribed and even then, only to patients under 18.

However, the PCT says it has based its decision on discussions with consultants about the benefits of insulin pumps saying it was felt they do not provide any extra advantages than treatments already used.

But group members say insulin pumps - which cost about £1,400 a year - can dramatically improve the quality of life of people with Type 1 diabetes, particularly children, if insulin injections do not prove a successful course of treatment.

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The voluntary group points to guidance published in 2003 by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) that states that insulin pumps should be an option where insulin injections have failed.

Insulin pumps, which are strapped to the stomach with a needle inserted, can help regulate blood sugar levels in patients where the levels may go up or down rapidly and without warning. The user of a pump is able to control the amount of insulin released by the device, which injects a tiny amount every minute into their tissue.

John Hutchinson, who is a member of the Diabetes Campaigners Network from the North Norfolk Voluntary Group, said: “It's shocking that people with diabetes who have difficulty managing their condition are being refused a treatment that can radically transform their lives.

“People's health and quality of life are on the line as badly controlled diabetes can lead to complications such as heart disease, blindness and kidney failure.

“Insulin pump therapy not only benefits the user but in the long term will benefit the NHS by reducing hospital admissions and the cost of treating the complications of diabetes.”

Campaigners say that may people do not have access to insulin pumps or even been assesses for them.

It is estimated that only 2pc of people with Type 1 diabetes in the UKL use the therapy compared to 10-20pc in some European countries.

However, Ian Small, the PCT's Deputy Head of Prescribing and Medicine Management, said: “The PCT has held discussions with consultants about the benefits of insulin pumps, but it was felt that they do not provide any extra advantages than treatments already used.

“For this reason the PCT policy is not to prescribe insulin pumps to patients as a matter of course.

“However, the PCT is very much guided by the consultants on this matter, and if a consultant decided a patient needed an insulin pump we could provide one if the NICE guidance criteria was followed. This would be through the exceptional drug fund route.”

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