Tens of thousands of adults in England under the age of 40 who have early onset type 2 diabetes are set to receive additional checks and support with managing their condition under a scheme announced by the NHS.
The 'Type 2 Diabetes in the Young' (T2DAY) programme will offer people aged 18 to 39 years extra one-to-one reviews as well as an option of new medicines and treatments where appropriate, NHS England said.
It estimated that around 140,000 people could benefit from the measures to help manage their early onset diabetes.
"Ever Increasing Challenge" to the NHS
According to Professor Jonathan Vallabhi, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, England was "no exception" to the global growth in type 2 diabetes among the under 40s, which represented "an ever-increasing challenge for the NHS". Analysis of the National Diabetes Audit showed that the rate at which young adults are diagnosed with early-onset type 2 diabetes in England has risen faster than the rate of diagnosis in people who are over 40.
Professor Vallabhi said adults under 40 were "least likely to complete vital annual health checks", and the scheme aimed to "ensure people are able to manage their diabetes well and reduce the risk of serious complications".
The programme will also offer dedicated support for women to help manage the additional risks associated with the condition in pregnancy.
NHS England highlighted that early onset type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in people living in areas of deprivation and among people from minority ethnic groups. Backed by £14.5 million of funding, local health teams would "help minimise the risk of these people developing health complications and severe illness" and "support a reduction in health inequalities", it said.
Eligible Patients Could Join the Path to Remission Programme
Some patients may also be eligible to access the NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme – a 1-year programme that aims to help participants improve their blood sugar levels, reduce diabetes-related medication, and in some cases put their type 2 diabetes into remission. The programme, which is only available in some parts of England, includes 12 weeks of low-calorie total diet replacement products and support to re-introduce food, as well as advice on adopting a healthy lifestyle.
An evaluation of the path to remission programme suggested that it had helped thousands of people living with type 2 diabetes — or who were obese or overweight —to lose over 10kg in weight, according to NHS England.
Dr Shivani Misra, a consultant in diabetes and metabolic medicine, and a member of the clinical team which developed the T2DAY programme, said: "This is great news for young adults living with type 2 diabetes who are at high risk of developing complications and other long-term conditions."
NHS England pointed to research suggesting that on average, someone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 20 years will have an overall reduced life expectancy of 11 years, compared with a reduced life expectancy of 2 years, when diagnosed at 65 years-old.
Commenting on the initiative, Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said it was "a welcome and much-needed opportunity" to address some of the inequalities in type 2 diabetes care.