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People with Diabetes in the UK Tops 5 Million for the First Time

The UK is facing a "rapidly escalating diabetes crisis", said a charity, as new analysis estimates the number of people living with the condition has topped 5 million for the first time.     

The new figures from Diabetes UK have revealed that 4.3 million people are now living with a diagnosis of diabetes in the UK – approximately 90% of the cases being type 2 and 8% type 1, with the other forms of the condition making up the remaining 2%. 

The charity estimated there are an additional 850,000 people living with diabetes who are yet to be diagnosed. This, it said, brought the overall UK-wide figure beyond the 5-million mark – an "all-time high".

Diabetes UK Chief Executive Chris Askew OBE described diabetes as "serious", and added that "every diagnosis is life changing".

Every week, diabetes leads to 184 amputations, more than 770 strokes, 590 heart attacks, and 2300 cases of heart failure, highlighted the charity.

'Rapidly Escalating Diabetes Crisis'

In 2015-16 there were 3,590,501 people aged over 17 in the UK registered with diabetes. The latest figures showed that in 2021-22 that figure had surged to 4,264,477 – an increase of almost 20%. In fact, diagnosed figures for 2021-22 were up by 148,951 from 2020-21, the second largest year-on-year increase in the past 8 years.

The charity explained that there had been a much lower rise in prevalence figures in 2020-21 as a result of the pandemic, with considerably lower rates of diabetes diagnoses combined with excess mortality associated with COVID-19 having likely contributed to the lower rate of increase for the 2020-21 period.

"These latest figures show we're in the grip of a rapidly escalating diabetes crisis, with spiralling numbers of people now living with type 2 diabetes and millions at high risk of developing the condition," said Mr Askew.

Diabetes UK said that the "shocking" figure underlined why diabetes must be central to the Government's forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy and a key part of local health leaders' plans. 

Focus 'Must Be' on Preventing Diabetes

In January this year, in his statement to the house on Government action on major conditions and diseases, Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that the Government's approach would be "rooted in the best understanding of the evidence" to tackle the major conditions which contribute to the burden of disease in England – namely cancers, cardiovascular diseases (including stroke and diabetes), chronic respiratory diseases, dementia, mental ill health, and musculoskeletal disorders.

Diabetes UK said that the focus needs to be shifted to the prevention of diabetes.

"With more than 2.4 million people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the UK, it's time to halt this crisis in its tracks," said a spokesperson for the charity. "The focus must be on preventing type 2 diabetes, supporting those at high risk, and working to reduce health inequalities in communities where the prevalence of type 2 is worryingly higher than the general population."

Diabetes UK said that urgent action was required and called for:

  • A firm commitment to diabetes in the Major Conditions Strategy
  • Integrated Care Systems to put diabetes at the heart of their action plans
  • The Government to push ahead with its stalled obesity strategy without further delay

"With the right care and support, cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission," said Mr Askew. "What we need to see is the will, grit, and determination from Government and local health leaders to halt this crisis in its tracks and improve the future health of our nation for generations to come."