Campaign call as diabetes cases up 7,000 in Wales

Campaigners claim the Welsh government is not doing enough to prevent a growth in Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes UK Wales national director Dai Williams said "a massive awareness campaign as a matter of urgency" is needed to raise awareness about the disease.

The charity said numbers diagnosed with diabetes in Wales increased by 7,000 in the last year.

The Welsh government said it had set up an expert group to tackle the disease.

The rise means 160,533 people in Wales - one in 20 - are now diagnosed with diabetes.

Research shows the figure could reach 250,000 by 2025 and the disease is costing the NHS in Wales £500m each year.

Diabetes expert Dr Jeffrey Stephens from Swansea University said an increase in obesity and the shift from industrial and agricultural working towards more sedentary desk-based employment was to blame.

Mr Williams told BBC Wales: "The Welsh Government must have a massive awareness campaign as a matter of urgency.

£500m a year

"We need people to understand that Type 2 diabetes is dangerous and they are living in the middle of an epidemic.

"The Welsh government manages to do it with something like swine flu, which thankfully didn't happen, but this is an epidemic that's already upon us and is costing a fortune in terms of money and health.

"Treating diabetes and its complications is already costing the Welsh NHS around £500m a year, 10% of its annual budget, and this massive cost will continue to spiral if more is not done to prevent people developing Type 2 diabetes."

He said that plans to screen the over-50s for diabetes as part of their annual health check by GPs were "closing the door after the horse has bolted" as there were increasing cases of people in their 40s, 30s, 20s and even teens developing Type 2 diabetes.

Calorie pollution

About 80% of cases of Type 2 diabetes are connected with obesity, he added.

Dr Jeffrey Stephens, a reader in diabetic medicine and a consultant physician at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, said the prevalence of diabetes at 5% was higher in Wales than in the UK but that could be down to it being identified more quickly.

He said: "We know that obesity and a BMI (Body Mass Index) of greater than 30 increases the risk and about 20-25% of the population is obese.

"We also know that lifestyles have changed over the last 20-30 years and there's the concept of calorie pollution and Wales developing into a fast food nation.

"On a more positive note I think we're much better at identifying diabetes. Previously we used to talk about a period of ten years between having diabetes and it being diagnosed but now a lot of screening goes on in primary care and in pharmacies."

The Welsh government said it would continue to invest in raising awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

"An expert group was established earlier this year to look at what further work is required to ensure high-quality diabetes services from GP surgeries to hospital-based care," a spokesperson said.

"The health minister will shortly be considering initial options for delivering health checks for people over 50 and we will be working closely with the health sector organisations such as the BMA, Community Pharmacy Wales, GPC Wales (the BMA GP committee), as well as the local health boards in developing our proposals."

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