NHS to provide life changing glucose monitors for Type 1 diabetes patients

Tens of thousands of people with Type 1 diabetes across the country will benefit from life changing glucose monitors on the NHS.

To coincide with World Diabetes Day, Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, is announcing action to end the current variation patients in some parts of the country are facing to access Freestyle Libre.

The wearable sensor does away with the need for inconvenient and sometimes painful finger prick blood tests by relaying glucose levels to a smart phone or e-reader.

NHS England will ensure the device, which is the size of a £2 coin and sits on the arm, is available on prescription for all patients who qualify for it in line with NHS clinical guidelines.

From April 2019, these patients will be able to receive it on prescription from their local GP or diabetes team helping them to better manage their blood sugar levels.

Digital technology

It comes as the NHS seeks to harness the power of digital technology to improve treatment and care in the long term plan, handing patients with conditions such as Type 1 diabetes the knowledge and tools to manage it themselves.

Simon Stevens said: “Increasingly the NHS is going to be offering patients this sort of technology to help them more easily manage their own long term health problem. In the NHS of the future, for many conditions you’re going to get NHS support direct from your smartphone or wearable device rather than having to trek to regular hospital outpatient appointments. Supporting people with modern tools to manage conditions such as Type 1 diabetes is about to become much more widespread. Innovations such as these also free up time and resources for the NHS as a whole.”

The pioneering technology should ultimately help people with Type 1 diabetes achieve better health outcomes and benefits for patients include:

  • Easily noticing when sugar levels are starting to rise or drop, so action can be taken earlier
  • Giving patients more confidence in managing their own condition
  • Not having to do as many finger-prick checks

Dr Partha Kar, Associate National Clinical Director for Diabetes at NHS England said: “This is an exciting and welcome step forward as the aim is to have uniform prescribing policy across the NHS, irrespective of where someone with Type 1 diabetes lives. This will be based on previous national guidance issued- with the provision of updating it as further evidence accrues.”

Funding from 1 April 2019

The device will be funded for people with Type 1 diabetes from 1 April 2019, from next year’s funding growth for local health groups which will allow access to flash monitoring throughout the country.

It is estimated that around 3-5% of patients with Type 1 diabetes in England have access to Freestyle Libre but if clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were following the guidance correctly, this figure could eventually rise to at least 20-25%. Currently, 144 of 195 clinical commissioning groups have signed up, and today’s announcement mean thousands of patients still missing out will now get access.

Simon Stevens added: “As the NHS prepares to put digital health and technology at the heart of our long term plan for the future, NHS England is taking important action so that regardless of where you live, if you’re a patient with Type 1 diabetes you can reap the benefits of this life improving technology.”

Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK said: “Today’s announcement is a huge step forward, and will be welcome news to the many thousands of people with Type 1 diabetes whose lives will now be changed for the better by access to Flash Glucose Monitoring. Once in place, these measures should mean an end to the variation in availability and the postcode lottery that have dogged access to this life-changing technology.

“This decision demonstrates that the NHS is seizing the opportunities presented by new technology, but also that it has listened to the voices of many thousands of people living with and affected by diabetes across the UK. Everyone who has called for fair and equitable access to this technology – through both funding and eligibility criteria – should feel rightly proud that they been heard today.

“The diabetes crisis is a fight that must be fought on many fronts, and Diabetes UK will continue to champion access to new and established technology – and gold standard care – wherever variation and inaccessibility exist.”

There are now over three million people in England with a diagnosis of diabetes and a further 940,000 living with diabetes that are yet to be diagnosed. Of those with a diagnosis of diabetes, it is estimated that 300,000 have Type 1 diabetes.