New figures from NHS Digital reveal an increase in the number of prescriptions being given for diabetes. The total number of items prescribed for diabetes in England totalled 53.4 million items in 2017/18. The total cost on the health service amounts to over £1 billion a year.

In its recent report: ‘Prescribing for Diabetes: England 2007/08 – 2017/18,’ NHS Digital examined prescribing trends in primary care in England for treating and managing diabetes.

There were 53.4 million items prescribed for diabetes in the financial year 2017/18, at a total net ingredient cost of £1,012.4 million. This is an increase from 22.6 million prescription items at a cost of £421.7 million since 2007/08.

Drugs used in diabetes now make up 11.4 per cent of total primary care net ingredient costs (NIC) and 4.9 per cent of prescription items.

All corners of the health service face an increasing burden from diabetes suffers, many of whom have the condition as a result of lifestyle factors that are entirely preventable. While the burden on GPs and other parts of the system increases, there is much that can be done to combat excess weight and inactivity, two of the main contributors to Type 2 diabetes.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, responded to the report by highlighting the importance of medication in helping patients manage their diabetes and allowing them to live a good quality of life. However, it is not all about medication, as lifestyle changes can also have a positive impact.

GP services remain stretched with unrelenting workforce and resource pressures still prevalent. This is exacerbated by increasing numbers with the condition in England.

While GPs have the ability to offer detailed advice on lifestyle changes that can be made, the trade-off for longer appointments is that fewer patients can be seen and wait times increase.

Professor Stokes-Lampard added: “Ultimately, we need to see the delivery of NHS England’s GP Forward View, which promises an extra £2.4bn for general practice and 5,000 more GPs, as well as our additional ask of £2.5bn extra a year as part of the forthcoming NHS long-term plan, to ensure we can give more time to all of our patients, including those with diabetes. ”