Senior Policy Officer, Diabetes UK
The benefits of diabetes technology are enormous, but more can be done to ensure those who need it have access to it.
Diabetes technology is transforming the lives of people living with the condition.
There are many different types of diabetes tech, from finger prick blood glucose monitors to insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGM), which sit under the skin and record your sugar levels continuously.
Newer technologies like hybrid closed-loop systems, sometimes called artificial pancreas technology, offer even more opportunity for people to better manage their diabetes. They involve CGMs and insulin pumps ‘speaking’ to each other via an algorithm and automating insulin delivery.
Evidence shows that these technologies can significantly improve self-management of diabetes, reducing the risk of developing devastating complications like sight-loss, heart disease and strokes. They have also been shown to improve quality of life for people living with diabetes.
People using these technologies have been better able to self-manage their diabetes while access to care has been limited.
Access is still an issue
While the evidence is there to show diabetes technology works, many people living with the condition still do not have access to it through the NHS. Access is limited and tends to be restricted to people with type 1 diabetes, despite there being growing evidence of its value for people living with type 2.
Furthermore, data shows people with type 1 diabetes living in the most deprived areas and those from ethnic minority backgrounds are least likely to be using diabetes technology.
Research is needed to understand how to address this but there are a number of potential factors contributing to this inequity:
- Variation in commissioning policies at a local level can result in a postcode lottery, meaning where a person lives can dictate what technology they may have access to.
- Healthcare professionals may have biases about which children and young people with diabetes they think will most benefit from technology use.
- Technology manufacturers may not design their products inclusively, meaning usability for some groups is limited.
It is crucial more is done
Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen just how beneficial diabetes technologies can be. Healthcare professionals have accessed data from non-invasive glucose monitors, allowing them to deliver high-quality care remotely. People using these technologies have been better able to self-manage their diabetes while access to care has been limited.
It is crucial that more is done to ensure all those who could benefit from diabetes technology have access to it. While research continues to understand in more detail the barriers to diabetes technology, investment in these technologies and working to end the postcode lottery can address at least some of the issues around equity in access.