By Marie-Louise Connolly-More than £1m is spent on diabetes care every day in Northern Ireland
A clear opportunity has been missed to improve care for people living with type 2 diabetes in Northern Ireland.
Failure to fully implement a 2003 review into the disease combined with a failure to introduce a strategy to deal with it until 2016 meant chances were missed to slow its growing prevalence, says a report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
It also notes that despite identifying significant staffing shortfalls in 2003, the problem remains 15 years later.
The hard-hitting report is critical of the lack of an integrated database and of the fact that there is no regional screening programme to identify people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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The absence of an audit committee at Stormont means there will be no political debate on this report.
However, it will be considered by officials at the Department of Health.
Diabetes has been described as a ticking time bomb for the health service, with an estimated 100,000 people in Northern Ireland expected to have the condition by 2020.
Type 2 – which is heavily linked to lifestyle – accounts for almost 90% of cases here.
According to the report, however, a prolonged delay in implementing a dedicated strategy has only fuelled the number of patients.
The development of high quality services has also been slow, with not enough specialists available to cope with demand.
While there has been a human cost to all this, there has been a financial one too.
£1m every day
Local treatment costs for diabetes are estimated at £400m annually, but that could rise by 17% by 2035. This represents 10% of the local health and social care budget.
In more blunt terms, more than £1m is spent on diabetes care every day in Northern Ireland.
There are also an estimated 13,000 cases of undiagnosed diabetes.
The report makes a number of recommendations including:
The department should explore the feasibility of establishing a model for measuring and managing future treatment costs;
Robust monitoring and review to ensure full implementation of the 2016 Diabetes Strategic Framework;
Improving access to information for the public to be better informed;
The department should ensure there is no slippage in producing the proposed workforce plan by 2019, including appointing a clinical lead for local diabetes care. source bbc