Community pharmacy is a diabetes support network

Our Head of Healthcare Policy and Strategy, Clare Kerr, talks about the impact of diabetes and the role that community pharmacy can play in helping patients to manage their condition.

Barely a week goes by that we don’t 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.  But I think it is important to raise the subject again in Diabetes Week and to highlight the very serious nature of this now common and life changing condition.

Diabetes currently affects around three and a half million people in the UK.  Of these, 10% have non-preventable Type 1 diabetes and are reliant on insulin injections. The vast majority though, are people living with lifestyle related Type 2 diabetes, who can often control the symptoms by having a healthy diet and lifestyle.  If it progresses, these patients too will require medication.

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

It is encouraging that the NHS and Public Health England have embarked on a major, at-scale initiative to significantly reduce the four million people in England otherwise expected to have Type 2 diabetes by 2025. The national diabetes prevention programme will help support people to lose excess weight, eat better and exercise more.

But perhaps the biggest challenge is the number of people undiagnosed with Type 2; one million by 2025 according to the charity Diabetes UK.  Since we launched our Type 2 diabetes screening service in 2003 we have carried out more than 1.5 million free tests and it is estimated that, had the NHS carried out these checks it would have cost £18.5million.  Simple risk assessment and screening is available in more than 1500 LloydsPharmacy locations across the UK, with no need for an appointment and conducted in a private consultation room.

At a time when the government is proposing to cut pharmacy funding and potentially close up to 3,000 pharmacies, it’s worth noting that community pharmacy teams will often be the health care professionals that people with diabetes see most regularly and they play a crucial role in managing the condition and in the delivery of quality diabetes care.

And it’s not just about dispensing prescriptions, my pharmacist colleagues 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.  Studies show that the involvement of pharmacists in diabetes management improves adherence to treatment regimens. It therefore makes absolute sense to better utilise community pharmacy as the government battles with the growing diabetes challenge.

So whether it’s raising awareness of the condition, conducting screening services, advising those newly-diagnosed or delivering associated services such as how to check your feet, LloydsPharmacy is committed to being a trusted source of information and advice as part of the diabetes support network.