The number of people with diabetes in the UK has risen by almost 60% in just 10 years, according to figures released by Diabetes UK.
The charity says that, with so many people now living with the condition, the NHS needs to do more to prevent the disease and treat those people already living with it, or risk bankruptcy.
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Over the past decade, the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has increased by over 1 million people, which is the equivalent of the population of a small country such as Cyprus.
“With a record number of people now living with diabetes in the UK, there is no time to waste – the Government must act now.
“We need to see more people with diabetes receiving the eight care processes recommended by NICE. It is unacceptable that a third of people living with the condition do not currently get these, putting them at increased risk of developing complications, such as amputations, heart attack or stroke.”
She said diabetes already costs the NHS almost £10bn a year, and called on the NHS to prioritise providing better care and improved education.
“Until then, avoidable human suffering will continue and the costs of treating diabetes will continue to spiral out of control and threaten to bankrupt the NHS. Now is the time for action,” she said.
Diabetes UK says the number of people with the illness in the UK has reached an all-time high of 3.9 million, and estimates there are another 590,000 people with undiagnosed type-2 diabetes. It fears there could be 5 million diabetes patients in the UK by 2025.
Unlike the more serious type-1 form of diabetes, many cases of type-2 can be prevented.
Raga D’Silva was diagnosed with type-2 three years ago, and given three years to live. But a change in diet and a commitment to a more active lifestyle has meant she is now in remission, and feeling better than she has for years.
She started up a fitness group called Use It To Lose It, which now has over 200 members. They use Indian Dance to help exercise, and swap healthy eating tips and recipes.
“I’ve had family members who have had limbs amputated because of diabetes,” she says.
“My mother also died from diabetes related health problems, and I thought to myself, I’m not going to be that person. I’ve lost over two stones in weight, and now thankfully I’m in remission. I want to die healthy!”
Diabetes UK urged the NHS to offer better education and support at the point of diagnosis and beyond. Failure to do so, it warned, could cost the NHS billions of pounds and shorten thousands of lives.