Type 2 Diabetes-The Hidden Killer

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This BBC Panorama documentary follows patients and vascular surgeons at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital. It is a study into type 2 diabetes, the health epidemic that afflicts almost 1 in 10 people in Birmingham and can lead to heart failure, blindness, kidney disease and leg amputations. You can watch it here

Some facts revealed in this programme are that there are over 4 million people in the UK with type 2 diabetes, with one new case being diagnosed every 2 minutes and set to rise by another million in the next 10 years. It also states that 9 out of 10 patients are over weight or obese and that in most cases type 2 diabetes is avoidable as the triggers are a bad diet and lack of exercise. One consultant told us that type 2 diabetes out numbered  all types of cancer diagnosis in the uk by a ratio of 3:1.

Put in simple terms, the higher the blood sugar levels, the more damage it does. Blood sugar is measured in mmol/litre and is ideal below 8. In the programme one 15 year old boy had a blood sugar level of 18 mmol/litre. He was encouraged to do more exercise and was seen walking in a park, great, drinking a bottle of lucozade at 29% sugar content, not great!

It goes on to say that type 2 diabetes patients are twice as likely to have a heart attack and three times more likely to have kidney disease, and that 40% of patients on dialysis are type 2 diabetic.

One Vascular Surgeon, concerned with the longterm viability of such a strain on the NHS said ‘that each time a patient is admitted to hospital there is a huge price tag in terms of economic cost to mobilise staff and recourses’. The NHS spends nearly £1 billion per year on related foot ulcers and amputations in type 2 diabetes alone. Just one lower limb amputation and rehab costs £38,000. The average cost of a hospital bed for 1 night cost £400. In the documentary, Norma who required an above the knee amputation will spend 1 month in hospital recovering. It was revealed that the total cost to the NHS of type 2 diabetes added together is a massive £10.3 billion or 10% of the total NHS budget.

Some consultants propose that bariatric surgery is the way forward, removing most of the stomach and replacing it with a tube to prevent over eating, with a cost to the NHS of £5000 per operation. There are however risks with any surgery.

In my view some of the vast sums of money being spent could be used on education, teaching people how to cook healthy meals from scratch and access to personal trainers or fitness classes, providing a support network to help keep patients motivated , monitor their progress, to stay healthy and out of hospital and off the surgeons table. This would be helping people where they need it and would pay back in the long term saving the NHS money and creating a happy and healthy population along the way. Surely it is time for change.