Doctor warns city faces a diabetes 'time bomb'
A LEADING health specialist has said if nothing is done to tackle the rising diabetes problem in the city, Plymouth is looking at a "time bomb".
Latest figures have revealed there are 12,409 people in Plymouth diagnosed with diabetes – and the figure is increasing by an average of 1,000 people a year.
Around 90 per cent of those diagnosed have Type 2 diabetes, which can be caused by being overweight, and around 10 per cent of people diagnosed have Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition which cannot be prevented.
According to national charity Diabetes UK, people are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes if they are overweight, have a large waist, have a close relative with the condition, or are from a black, or South Asian background. But the charity says being overweight or obese is the biggest risk factor.
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Dr Patrick English, consultant in diabetes at Derriford Hospital, said that whilst the figures are in line with the national average, they are still "alarming". He said something needs to be done to "radically" change the way diabetes care is delivered in the community.
"It is important to highlight just what a drain diabetes is on NHS resources, and it's only going to get worse," he said. "It's time to look radically at changing the way we manage diabetes in Plymouth and with the new NHS changes which have just been implemented it's a great time to do something about it. This really is Plymouth's last chance.
"The city has fallen behind in the way it manages diabetes care in the community compared to other cities and we have a real opportunity now to do something about it. If we don't manage the situation differently our costs are going to spiral.
"It's absolutely imperative that we get on with this and change. If in a year's time nothing has been done we will be even further behind and it will be a challenge to catch up. The increase in the prevalence of diabetes is a real challenge in itself and we have to deliver medical care differently. If we don't, we are looking at a time bomb."
Dr English said that whilst Derriford Hospital has been recognised by NHS diabetes as an exemplar site for inpatient diabetes care, there is a clear need to look at the way diabetes care is provided in the community and is hopeful that working with the new Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will be a step in the right direction.
He added: "To really improve outcomes we've got to talk about preventing diabetes. We have to work with local communities to change those lifestyle behaviours that increase the risk of diabetes and other poor health outcomes."
A spokesman for NEW Devon CCG said: "Improving diabetes care is a priority area for the western locality of NEW Devon CCG and like Dr English, we are keen to develop relationships to look at the way diabetes care is delivered in the locality."
Cabinet member for Public Health and Adult Social Care, Cllr Sue McDonald said: "Tackling the causes of diabetes is vitally important for the health of the city and it's an issue for all of the health services to address, trying to encourage people to live healthier lives and help them access support to do so.
"There are major changes to health services locally and this gives us an opportunity to ensure a citywide approach to the early identification of people at risk of diabetes, prevention measures including weight management and physical activity, screening and support."
'Fastest-growing health threat' – Pages 24-25; Comment, Page 11