Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes in the UK

Diabetes is a common condition across the United Kingdom. If you like to know how big a problem it is nationwide, here are some facts about Diabetes in the UK.

How many people have diabetes in the UK?

About one and a half million people in the UK have diagnosed diabetes. It is thought that there are at least one million others who have not been diagnosed as yet.

I have heard the problem is increasing - is this true?

Yes. The number is escalating worldwide and this is often referred to as a 'global epidemic' of diabetes. The number of people with diabetes is estimated to increase to 3 million by the year 2010. Diabetes is more common as people get older.

What is being done about this?

The NHS is currently re-evaluating Diabetes services in the UK taking into account the above information. A National Service Framework for Diabetes was implemented in late 2003. The twelve standards of the Diabetes National Service Framework cover all aspects of diabetes care and prevention, and together with the Delivery Strategy, set out a ten-year programme of change and improvement which will raise the quality of services and reduce unacceptable variations in the care of people with diabetes.

Can I do anything to avoid 'catching it'?

You do not 'catch' diabetes. There is, however a lot you can do to prevent the onset of this condition especially if you are someone who is at high risk. Please see the documents 'Are you at risk' and 'preventing diabetes' for more information.

How does the NHS cope with the increase in demand?

Diabetes services have to cope with the increasing workload by improving efficiency. The use of diabetes computer databases as well as the team structure of most diabetes services helps considerably.

How much does it cost?

The reported NHS expenditure on diabetes is approximately 9 percent of NHS costs. Around 5 per cent of total NHS spend and up to 10 per cent of hospital in-patient spend is used for the care of people with diabetes.

Diabetes UK has summarised these costs as follows:

  • 5 billion per year (based on year 2000 figures)
  • 100 million per week
  • 14 million per day
  • 600,000 per hour
  • 165 per second!

Though these figures are clearly estimates, they give a good idea on how much is spent on the care of diabetes.

Is there going to be a nationwide screening programme for diabetes?

This is the subject of ongoing discussion. At present there is no formal guidance for screening though many GPs would test you for diabetes if you are significantly at risk or have symptoms of diabetes. Please see the page on Risk of Type 2 diabetes to read about what factors would place you at increased risk of diabetes.


Dr Nishan Wijenaike, Consultant Physician
West Suffolk Hospitals Diabetes Service.
Revised: October 2007