Cost of diabetes to Norfolk putting NHS under strain

Cath Gorman has linked the increase in diabetes and its cost to the rise in obesity.

Cath Gorman has linked the increase in diabetes and its cost to the rise in obesity. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The soaring cost of diabetes to Norfolk and Suffolk reached almost £300m last year, research by the EDP has found.

The figures cover the cost of drugs and treatment for those with the debilitating, chronic, potentially fatal condition.

It comes as the numbers of diabetics in our region rises to its highest ever level, with warnings that many more are at risk of developing the condition.

Around nine out of 10 cases in our region relate to type-two diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity.

An analysis of figures from public health bodies show that the figure for Norfolk was £162m last year. Suffolk County Council, meanwhile, estimates the cost was £133m.

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Public-health experts believe the annual spend on diabetes could be even higher, once indirect costs are included.

As the numbers increase, they are looking at ways to work together to find ways of helping people reduce their risk of developing the condition.

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Norfolk County Council's public health team has chosen tackling obesity as one of its three priorities until 2017.

Dr Boaventura Rodrigues, a public health medicine consultant at Norfolk County Council, said: 'The public health team is aware of the increasing prevalence of diabetes and its consequences, and has been working with its partners in health and social care.'

There are currently around 53,000 people living with diabetes in areas covered by Norfolk's clinical commissioning groups (CCG). But Public Health England officials have warned that 90,706 people in the county are at risk of developing type-two diabetes.

Prescribing basic diabetes drugs alone cost Norfolk's CCGs £15.8m in 2014/15 – a rise of nearly £1m from 2013/14. Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG spent the lowest amount per year on basic drugs per patient (£254), while having to buy drugs for the biggest number of diabetics in Norfolk.

Cath Gorman, director for commissioning and quality at the CCG, said the increase in diabetes and its cost was linked to the rise in obesity, which is why health bodies are working towards preventing people to develop those conditions by setting up activities and wellbeing programmes.

That work will become even more important in the next decades as World Health Organisation figures suggest almost three quarters of men and almost two thirds of women in the UK are projected to be overweight by 2030.

She said: 'CCGs are struggling with the effects of the increase in diabetes and there is no magic wand to change the trend.

'It's not about blaming people who become obese or aren't physically active, we all have to recognise the need for a healthy lifestyle. We need to educate that to people from a young age and we're working on prevention with schools.'

Suffolk County Council estimated the cost of diabetes for 2014/15 was £133m, which works out to around £3,500 per patient. Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and West Suffolk CCG spent a total of £9.5m on prescribing basic diabetes drugs.

Prescriptions aside, the cost of the condition comes from paying for a variety of check-ups, treatments, and surgeries diabetics are faced with, including highly-expensive procedures like amputation.


Diabetes is putting an ever-increasing strain on local and national NHS budgets.

It is difficult to measure the true cost of the condition in our region because Diabetes can lead to so many complications and there could be hidden and/or indirect costs such as social care or sick-leave.

Even the amount spent on Diabetes drugs varies from CCG to CCG. In East Anglia, Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG spent £254 per patient annually while West Suffolk CCG spent £355. The reason for this disparity in spends is that CCGs have different formularies (lists of medicines) that they use and some doctors prescribe branded medication, others buy unbranded, and some patients may have complex treatment.

Because of those inconsistencies it is very difficult to determine which CCG gets best value for money, although there is undoubtedly some wastage.

One thing is certain – the cost of Diabetes is rising year-on-year. In the last financial year East Anglia CCGs spent nearly £37m on prescribing the basic drugs, compared to around £34m in 2013/14.

Nationally the net ingredient cost of prescribing those drugs in 2014/15 was £868.6m, a rise of around £65m from the previous year.

According to Diabetes UK, the condition costs the NHS £10bn every year, but 80pc is spent on avoidable complications.

The charity also said the number of people with a form of Diabetes has risen by 60pc in the last decade, up from 2.1m in 2005 to 3.3m in 2015.

Around 7pc of patients nationally are diabetic, but in Norfolk the percentage is between 10-10.5pc; 90pc of patients have Type 2 Diabetes while the remaining 10pc have Type 1.

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