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Diabetes: Access to blood test strips ‘restricted’

BLOOD TEST: A patient undergoes an diabetes examination (PA)

GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES are curtailing access to important blood test strips for diabetes, according to a charity.

Diabetes UK says its recent survey showed 39 per cent of respondents had prescriptions to the blood glucose test strips had been denied or restricted.

The strips are crucial in allowing a diabetic to effectively manage their condition.

About 2,200 were surveyed, and the charity said guidelines aimed at saving money are the reason for the restricted access to the strips.

Previously, Health Minister Anna Soubry told MPs that any restriction was “unacceptable”.

Her view contrasts to that of the Clinical Commissioning Groups, its spokesman said the strips had a history of being over-prescribed.

The Department of Health has since written to GPs across England informing them prescription for the strips should be made on clinical need and not restricted.

According to Diabetes UK, prescription of the strips varies in different regions of the country, and that some users are only permitted to have two testing strips a week.

People with type-1 diabetes are required to test their blood every time they eat – and testing increases if the person exercises or drives.

On average, a person with the condition will need to test their blood four times a day, the charity said.

Diabetes UK called on senior health leaders to remove the guidelines, so that strips can be prescribed to individual clinical need without restriction.

Its chief executive Barbara Young said: “Our survey showed a lack of test strips was stopping them driving, exercising or knowing how much insulin to take when they are eating or whether they are experiencing a 'hypo' [hypoglycaemic episode], which needs to be treated immediately.

“Rationing test strips to save money does not make any sense, because it is putting people at increased risk of complications that are hugely expensive to treat.”

She added: “Diabetes costs the NHS around £10bn annually and 80% of this spend goes on treating complications.”

Northeast London GP, Dr Ken Aswani, said: “Although some people may feel their strips are being restricted, ultimately, GPs will provide blood glucose testing strips based on need, and where it is appropriate to provide them for the patient.”

People of an African Caribbean background have the highest chance of developing diabetes than any other ethnicity, according to many health charities.

In the UK there are about 3.8 million people who are diabetic, and of those 850,000 are undiagnosed with type-2 diabetes, says Diabetes UK.

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