Launch of initiative to prevent diabetes

DEPUTY Prime Minister John Prescott has helped launch an intiative to prevent some 500 people with diabetes going blind each year.Eye screening services for people with diabetes is a key point among a raft of measures drawn up to tackle the disease, which affects about 1.

DEPUTY Prime Minister John Prescott has helped launch an intiative to prevent some 500 people with diabetes going blind each year.

Eye screening services for people with diabetes is a key point among a raft of measures drawn up to tackle the disease, which affects about 1.4 million people who are diagnosed with diabetes in the UK. Another one million who are thought to have the condition but do not realise it.

Under the National Service Framework (NSF) - for which there are no ring-fenced funds - every person with diabetes or at risk of developing the disease will be offered regular check-ups and treatments.

Diabetes UK, the charity for people with diabetes, welcomed the measures as a "step forward" but said they would come to nothing unless the Government ensured local NHS services delivered.

Dr Gerry Rayman, consultant diabetologist and endocrinologist at Ipswich Hospital's diabetes centre, said: "This is an important development for diabetes care in England."

He added: "There has been an explosion in the numbers of people with diabetes and there are new treatments for diabetes and to prevent the long-term complications.

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"It is very important that we have the staff and are highly organised to ensure that all people with diabetes receive these treatments.

"A great deal of work needs to be done to achieve this – the National Health Service Framework has set the standards and target dates. Those of us working in diabetes in Suffolk are enthusiastic to see further improvements in the care that we provide to our patients.

"We have already been very active in developing and improving diabetes care. The Ipswich Diabetes Centre and the Diabetic Foot Clinic are nationally and internationally recognised as areas of excellence."

A Diabetic Steering Group has been set up locally to ensure "we are adequately resourced, staffed and organised", he said.

"Further developments in eye screening to prevent blindness, a diabetes database and funding for community specialist nurses to improve patient's understanding and management of the condition have already been identified as key objectives," Dr Rayman added.

Mr Prescott - whose diabetes became public last year - joined Health Secretary Alan Milburn to launch the NSF at St Thomas' Hospital in central London.

He said: "I had the symptoms that should be recognised by those one million people who may be suffering from diabetes.

"They will have the symptoms that I didn't connect with diabetes. I had a dry mouth, problems with an awful lot of water-passing, lots of weight loss and a certain personality change identified by some of my colleagues."

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