Research reveals diabetics in UK being refused sufficient supply of testing strips

by Barbara Hewitt on April 7, 2017

People with diabetes in the UK are being refused access to sufficient test strips which are essential to monitor their blood glucose levels, new research has found.

This supports recent findings that people living with diabetes are being refused an essential piece of kit to monitor blood glucose by the NHS.

A national survey by charity Diabetes UK found that one in four people had either experienced restrictions or were refused test strips on the National Health Service compared to one in five people four years ago.

It also found that 52% of people experiencing problems getting test strips had type 1 diabetes and it said this is of particular concern as NICE recommends all adults with type 1 diabetes should routinely self-monitor blood glucose levels, testing at least four times a day.

The charity is also concerned that people with type 2 diabetes revealed that they were advised they did not need to test their blood glucose. Yet they should if their diabetes is treated with insulin and/or medication that can cause low blood sugar.

Indeed, it points out that people with diabetes use test strips in blood glucose monitors that help them to be more in control of the condition and if not managed well, diabetes can lead to devastating complications such as amputations, blindness, heart disease and stroke.

The research found people were told that there is no budget to provide test strips and that they could only have a certain number. Indeed an 86-year-old man was told he could only have 50 a year which would mean he could only test his blood glucose levels once a week.

Diabetes UK believes that such rationing is a false economy because the cost of dealing with complications caused by poorly managed diabetes is far higher and people with diabetes should not have to fight for what is an essential piece of medical equipment.

‘These short sighted cost savings cause people real anguish and potential financial distress. It also means people are struggling to manage their diabetes, which can lead to serious consequences for their health,’ said Diabetes UK’s policy manager Nikki Joule.

The charity says that NICE need to review its guidance on self-monitoring for people with type 2 diabetes and the NHS must make sure local policies reflect NICE guidance on self-monitoring for people with type 1 diabetes.

Liz Davies, 34, from Caerphilly in Wales found after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a year ago that she had to battle to get strips despite regular testing of her blood glucose levels being essential and she has an active lifestyle which includes running and coaching athletics which means balancing her activity levels with her diet and the amount of insulin she takes is vital.

‘Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes can have a huge impact on your life and getting the balance right is essential. This is why I find it so important to test my blood glucose levels regularly, particularly as I’m such an active person,’ she said.

‘Unfortunately being able to access the test strips that I needed after I was first diagnosed became a constant battle. Every time I ordered more there was a lot of resistance. I was asked whether I really needed them and even told that I was testing too much and shouldn’t have any more. In the end I had no other option than to move from my GP practice to another one in the area, where I’ve had a completely different experience and haven’t had to fight for access to test strips,’ she explained.

‘I think it is vitally important that people like me, who have type 1 diabetes, are given the opportunity to manage our condition well and test strips are essential for this. They may cost a small amount of money each month but the savings that will come from people managing their condition well are huge in the long term,’ she added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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