MINISTERS should hold health boards to account over why so few diabetics are provided with a “life-changing” electronic treatment device, it was claimed last night.
An insulin pump – about the size of a pack cards – dispenses measured amounts of insulin directly into the body and reduces the need for insulin injections from several times a day to just once or twice a week.
More than 26,000 people in Scotland suffer from type 1 diabetes, but only 326 use an insulin pump, and there are huge disparities between health boards.
Ayrshire and Arran and Western Isles health boards have more than 2,400 suffers, but not one uses the device. NHS Lothian and NHS Tayside, which is recognised as having the most advanced diabetic strategy in Scotland, represent nearly half of all users in Scotland.
Diabetes UK estimates that each insulin pump could save the NHS nearly £26,000 over a two-year period.
The situation was outlined in a members’ debate in the Scottish Parliament brought by Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart. He said just 1% of type 1 sufferers in Scotland use insulin pumps compared with 2% in the rest of the UK. He said: “Despite the outlined benefits of this insulin-pump therapy, they are still a rare occurrence in Scotland. This is particularly problematic considering Scotland’s high prevalence in type 1 diabetes which is above the European average.”
Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Richard Simpson said all health boards should be guided by NHS Tayside where 2.7% of type 1 diabetics use insulin pumps.
“I would suggest that the benchmark for Scotland should be about 2.5% and we should be inviting the cabinet secretary to hold health boards accountable to explain to her, the government and to this parliament why there is such massive discrepancy between one area and another,” he said.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged insulin pumps could be life changing but said they were not suitable for all sufferers and those who did use then needed training and monitoring. She said the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) was reviewing the criteria on the availability of insulin pumps.
She added: “I will make sure that I and the Scottish Diabetes Group continue to monitor closely the programme of availability across Scotland as a whole and on a board-by-board basis, particularly when the new Nice criteria are available.”