The NHS in England has begun providing continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) to pregnant women with type 1 diabetes – after the initial rollout was delayed by COVID-19.
It is a significant milestone on the journey towards greater access to technology for people with type 1 diabetes, and one was made possible by JDRF research.
CGM technology has long been unavailable on the NHS for most people living with type 1, including pregnant women.
However, in 2017, JDRF-funded research found that CGM significantly benefited both mother and child during pregnancy.
After input by JDRF and partner organisations, NHS England committed to provide CGM to all pregnant women living with the condition.
Although this change only applies to women in England, the Scottish Health Technologies Group has recommended that the NHS in Scotland follow suit.
In many cases, NHS access to technology in one of the four UK nations often helps lead to access in the others. JDRF will be monitoring and pushing for this.
Better glucose control and healthier babies
Continuous glucose monitors are small wearable devices that regularly and automatically monitor glucose levels. The devices reduce the number of daily fingerprick checks, and can sound alarms if blood glucose levels get too high or low.
In September 2017, the researchers behind the JDRF-funded CONCEPTT trial announced that pregnant women living with type 1 diabetes, who used a continuous glucose monitor throughout their pregnancy, had better blood glucose control and healthier babies.
JDRF and others took this evidence from CONCEPTT and submitted it to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which advises on the use of new medicines and technology on the NHS.
In 2018, NICE subsequently agreed to update its Diabetes in Pregnancy guideline with a focus on CGM – and in 2019, NHS England agreed to incorporate this into its long-term plan.
Research crucial to CGM decision
Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of JDRF, said: “Type 1 diabetes can be tough to live with, and pregnant women with the condition face particular challenges. That is why we are especially pleased by this milestone, achieved in large part thanks to JDRF research that showed that CGM is cost-effective for pregnant women.”
Lesley Jordan, Senior Technology Access Specialist at JDRF, said: “The provision of CGM will help keep mothers and their babies healthy, and will help set world standards for the provision of medical technology for pregnant women with type 1 diabetes.
“As more evidence becomes available, we will continue to push for better provision of type 1 diabetes technology for more people with the condition, right across the UK.
“We want everyone who wants and needs CGM to have access to it on the NHS.”
‘CGM gave me my child’
Sophia Walker, who lives with type 1 diabetes, said: “I have an extremely entrenched fear of low blood sugar. But CGM technology, coupled with the amazing knowledge and support of my team at St Thomas’s Hospital, gave me the confidence to undertake a pregnancy.
“It was difficult, but it would have been a hundred times harder if I had been constantly worried about passing out from high or low blood sugar.
“Now I can’t imagine life without my daughter. She brings so much joy to me, and to others. I thank the NHS and CGM for the gift of her.”
JDRF is working with partners to improve awareness of and access to type 1 diabetes technology. Find out more about our Pathway to Choice initiative.