Charity highlights steep rise in diabetes deaths during pandemic

  • Peter Russell, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
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Concerns that people with diabetes are failing to receive the support they need from the Government to keep them safe as COVID-19 lockdown measures are eased, have been voiced by experts.

Diabetes UK said its analysis of figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that on average there was a 47% increase in excess deaths related to diabetes between the 21 March and the 1 May 2020 compared with the 5 year average for the same period.

The excess deaths relating to diabetes occurred in care homes or in private homes, the figures showed, while deaths in hospitals dropped below the 5-year average.

A large proportion of the excess deaths occurred in private homes, which saw a 106% increase, the charity said.

The figures excluded deaths categorised as occurring directly because of COVID-19.

Delays to Patient Care

Although the ONS did not pinpoint an exact cause for the rise, Diabetes UK suggested that explanations could include undiagnosed COVID-19 deaths, delays in care, and patients not seeking medical assistance when needed.  

Helen Kirrane, head of policy, campaigns and mobilisation at Diabetes UK, said: "These harrowing statistics hammer home the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had – and continues to have – on thousands of families affected by diabetes. 
 
"As lockdown measures ease further day by day, it's important the seriousness of diabetes – in light of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on people with diabetes – is recognised by Government.
 
"We've been calling on the Government for months to take the specific needs of people with diabetes seriously, and to ensure that additional measures are in place to keep them safe.

“Despite this, the needs of people with diabetes have not been sufficiently or properly considered in Government guidance and support throughout the pandemic, and they are suffering as a result.

“While we wait for Government to take the action needed, we also urge people with diabetes to seek help and support if and when they need it; the NHS is, and remains, open and there for you."

Greater Risk From Coronavirus for People With Diabetes

The 3.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK are identified by the Government as clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.

In May this year, a report by NHS England found that people with type 1 diabetes were 3.5 times more at risk of dying from COVID-19 in hospital than people without the condition, while the risk from type 2 diabetes was 2.03 times higher.

Diabetes UK said it had expressed concern earlier this year that people with diabetes were not seeking the help and support they needed from the NHS.

It said it was also worried by a lack of detail on the support and protections that people with diabetes could expect, specifically if their workplace was not COVID-secure, and they were unable to work from home.

In partnership with more than 10 other charities, including Age UK, Macmillan, and Parkinson's UK, Diabetes UK has called on the Government to extend the furlough scheme for people at high risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, who can't safely return to work.

Adapted from Medscape UK.