People in Mid Sussex ‘being denied life-changing diabetes technology’

Chris Tomkins, 40, from Burgess Hill, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 25 years. Picture: Diabetes UK
Chris Tomkins, 40, from Burgess Hill, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 25 years. Picture: Diabetes UK

People with diabetes in Mid Sussex are being denied new life-changing technology that could help them safely manage their condition, Diabetes UK has said.

Many people with diabetes need to self-monitor their blood glucose levels and this is usually done with a finger prick blood test using a meter that indicates the blood glucose level at the time of the test.

People with diabetes who use insulin often need to test many times a day.

In contrast, Flash glucose monitoring uses a small sensor that people wear on their skin that records blood sugar levels continuously, and can be read by scanning the sensor whenever needed.

This device can free them from the pain of frequent finger-prick testing, making it easier to keep on top of blood glucose levels.

But the Horsham and Mid Sussex clinical commissioning group (CCG) has decided against prescribing Flash, while neighbouring Brighton and Hove is offering it for free on prescription, Diabetes UK said.

A spokesman said: “Crucially, because Flash helps people test more frequently, and gives them much more information, it in turn supports to improve control of the condition.

“This can then reduce the risk of serious diabetes-related complications, such as amputation, blindness and stroke, as well as improving quality of life, and saving the NHS much- needed funds.

“Even though in principle the device can be prescribed on the NHS since November 2017, its use is subject to approval by local health bodies.

“Currently, only Northern Ireland, Wales and two in five areas in England and one in three in Scotland have made it available to people who meet local criteria.

“This means that people with diabetes face a postcode lottery to access technology that could help them manage their condition well.

“The variation in care is similar across the UK. Local decision makers have decided against prescribing Flash in 52 areas in England, while thousands of people with diabetes are awaiting decisions by 38 clinical commissioning groups across England and nine health boards in Scotland that are currently reviewing their policies.

“There is no information on availability or plans to review policies in 35 areas. Diabetes UK is urgently calling on local health bosses to give access to the ground-breaking technology to those who can benefit, no matter where they live.”

Jill Steaton, regional head in the South East at Diabetes UK, said: “People’s health should not depend on an unfair postcode lottery. Everyone should be able to access the care and treatments necessary to safely manage their condition.

“Because Flash makes it easier to monitor and better control blood glucose levels, it improves lives, can save money, and reduces the risk of serious diabetes-related complications such as amputations and blindness.

“The NHS agreed to provide access in November, but people with diabetes in Horsham and Mid Sussex have already been waiting for too long.

“The local CCG should now have a policy providing access to Flash for free on prescription, so that everyone who can benefit from it, will.”

Chris Tomkins, 40, lives in Burgess Hill. He has lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 25 years and works in Brighton as a computer network engineer.

He said: “I saw a specialist last year who advised me to start using flash to monitor my blood glucose levels. It changed my life.

“Using the strips and not having to finger prick eight times a day was such a relief. 

“I felt so much better in my day-to-day life. Importantly, it gave me great control at night as my blood sugar tends to be unpredictable around 3am so those dangerous night time hypos were much less likely.

“The new technology gives me great control of my diabetes but also offers such reassurance and convenience as I have a busy job which makes testing difficult.

“In the long term, the technology will save the NHS millions as it minimises the risk of costly complications such as amputations.

“It’s a really critical technology – the decision by Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG not to make it available locally means I have to go back to finger pricking eight times a day as I can no longer afford to self-fund.

“But, a few miles down the road in Brighton, it would be available to me.

“It’s effectively a postcode lottery and local people are being denied a life-changing technology.

“I’m sorry to say – it’s the first time in 25 years that I have felt let down by the NHS.”

More than seven thousand people have backed the Diabetes UK campaign for fair and equal access to Flash glucose monitoring everywhere in the UK and a third of areas already recognise the benefits of the technology and are prescribing it.

Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF and INPUT, the diabetes technology charity are also supporting the campaign.

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The CCG has confirmed that Flash will not be available on prescription to patients.

Dr Minesh Patel, NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG clinical chair, said: “We have considered the evidence and recommendations from various local area prescribing committees and the Regional Medicines Optimisation Committee, alongside the significant financial pressure that Flash could present.

“We have to be realistic about our current financial position – as we are challenged with making £50million of savings across central Sussex and East Surrey CCGs this year – we can do some things but we cannot do everything.

“The CCG decision-making committees have expressed concern about the limited evidence base to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of Flash and while patient experience and quality of life improvements were noted, after careful consideration the committees concluded that given the financial position of the CCG, Flash is unaffordable at this current time.”

“This decision was made on the basis of no current evidence of value for money above that of the currently available meters and because of limited data on proven clinical benefit.

“The CCG will continue to review any forthcoming evidence that becomes available in the future, and will reassess the decision in light of any relevant new positive evidence.”