Community pharmacy plays fundamental role in diabetes support network

Our Head of Healthcare Policy and Strategy, Clare Kerr, talks about the impact of diabetes and the role community pharmacy can play in prevention and management.

Pre COVID-19 we’d often hear about the obesity crisis and its effect on the health of our nation – in particular the rising numbers of people living with Type 2 diabetes. Fast forward three months and we’re now seeing the potentially devastating consequences associated with developing an underlying health condition like diabetes. It feels more important than ever to raise the subject in Diabetes Week and to highlight the very serious nature of this life-changing condition.

Now one of the world’s most common long-term health conditions, diabetes currently affects one in 15 people in the UK, including one million people who have Type 2, but haven’t been diagnosed.

Ten per cent of those living with diabetes have non-preventable Type 1 and are reliant on insulin injections. The vast majority though, are people living with lifestyle-related Type 2, who can often control the symptoms by eating healthily and exercising regularly. If the condition progresses, these patients too will require medication.

The National Health Service spends around one tenth of its total budget on diabetes and related complications. Timely identification of individuals at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – or in the early stages of the condition – is vital to reduce complications which have an impact on both the individual and the state.

The NHS, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have embarked on a major, at-scale initiative to significantly reduce the five million people in England predicted to have Type 2 diabetes by 2025. The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme helps to empower people with a high risk of developing Type 2 to take ownership of their health and well-being by supporting them to lose excess weight, eat better and exercise more.

In ‘normal’ circumstances community pharmacy teams will often be the healthcare professionals that people with diabetes see most regularly. But it’s not just about dispensing prescriptions. Our pharmacists are the most appropriately qualified to support patients on how to use their medicines to manage their condition and, where necessary, they can advise on recommended lifestyle and dietary interventions.

A recent study has found that despite a large amount of hospital based-care being cancelled because of the focus on COVID-19, 98% of people were still able to obtain prescription medications and 75% could access GP services or see a pharmacist.

Our pharmacies act as health and well-being hubs for the communities they serve and because we’ve been there, every day during the pandemic, people have been able to access clinical advice and care they might not have otherwise received.

As well as helping patients to manage their diabetes, our pharmacy teams can also support with prevention and identifying the people unknowingly living with the condition. Since LloydsPharmacy launched our Type 2 diabetes screening service in 2003, we have carried out more than 1.5 million tests, helping to provide vital intervention.

Studies show that the involvement of pharmacists in diabetes management improves adherence to treatment regimes. So, as we slowly return to a new kind of normal and the country continues to tackle the growing diabetes challenge, it makes absolute sense to better utilise community pharmacy as part of the diabetes support network.

Whether it’s raising awareness of the condition, advising those who are newly diagnosed or conducting screenings and delivering associated services, LloydsPharmacy will continue to support the NHS by playing a fundamental role in helping people to prevent and manage diabetes.