UPDATE on flash glucose monitoring access: a postcode lottery for UK people with type 1 diabetes

Posted on 15 May 2018

Flash glucose monitor on arm with reader showing measurement

Thousands of UK adults and children with type 1 diabetes are still being denied access to flash glucose monitoring.

Currently, only Northern Ireland, Wales, two in five areas in England and one in three in Scotland have made it available to people who meet local criteria.

All people with type 1 diabetes (and many with other types) need to self-monitor their blood glucose levels. This is usually done with a finger prick blood test using a meter that indicates the blood glucose level at the time of the test.

In contrast, flash glucose monitoring uses a small sensor that people wear on their skin that records blood sugar levels continuously, and can be read by scanning the sensor whenever needed. This device can free them from the pain of frequent finger-prick testing, making it easier to keep on top of blood glucose levels. It helps people test more frequently, and gives them much more information.

Even though in principle the device can be prescribed on the NHS since November 2017, its use is subject to approval by local health bodies.

Local decision makers have decided against prescribing flash glucose monitoring in 52 areas in England, while thousands of people are awaiting decisions by 38 clinical commissioning groups across England and nine health boards in Scotland that are currently reviewing their policies. There is no information on availability or plans to review policies in 35 areas.

This means that people with type 1 diabetes face a postcode lottery to access technology that could help them manage their condition well. For instance, in Yorkshire, flash glucose monitoring is available in Sheffield but not available in the nearby city of Wakefield. The variation in care is similar across the UK, with Preston and Blackburn in Lancashire having a blanket ban and neighbouring Wigan and Manchester providing access to those who meet local criteria. In the Midlands, Birmingham is not offering access while Wolverhampton has made the device available.

In the South East, the Crawley clinical commissioning group has decided against it, but people a few miles down the road in Brighton and Hove can get it for free on prescription. In the South West, flash glucose monitoring is offered in Somerset, while Dorset in its eastern borders has not given access. In London, most boroughs have agreed in principle to make it available and are currently finalising implementation plans.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “Successful research has led to the emergence of wearable medical technology that can change the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. But this tech must actually reach every person in the UK that needs and wants it.”

Helen Dickens, Assistant Director of Campaigns and Mobilisation at Diabetes UK, said: “People’s health should not depend on an unfair postcode lottery. Everyone should be able to access the care and treatments necessary to safely manage their condition.

“Because Flash makes it easier to monitor and better control blood sugar levels, it improves lives, can save money, and reduces the risk of serious diabetes-related complications such as amputations and blindness.

“The NHS agreed to provide access in November, but people with diabetes have already been waiting for too long. Every area should now have a policy providing access to Flash for free on prescription, so that everyone who can benefit from it, will.”

JDRF, Diabetes UK, and the diabetes technology charity INPUT are working together to help improve access to the device.

Find out more

To find out if flash glucose monitoring is right for you, what you need to do to access it and how you can make the case for it to be made available in your local area, go to www.diabetes.org.uk/flash