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Diabetic Scots ‘left out the loop’ over access to new technology

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Health campaigners fear Scots with diabetes could be “left out of the loop” with insufficient access to new “life changing” technology to help them manage their condition.

Diabetes Scotland contrasted the situation in Scotland with that south of the border, where NHS England has announced a five-year implementation plan for rolling out hybrid closed loop (HCL) technology to patients.

With new Scottish health secretary Neil Gray just coming into the post, the charity is again making a renewed plea for action.

HCL devices, described as being “one of the most exciting developments in type 1 diabetes care in recent years” work by combining an insulin pump with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), enabling the pump to automatically adjust vital insulin levels.

The Scottish Government allocated £14.6m to health boards for HCL devices at the start of 2022, but Diabetes Scotland said “too many people are still struggling to access this vital medical equipment”.

National director John Kinnear told the PA news agency: “The Scottish Health Technologies Group made recommendations for a rollout of diabetes technology across Scotland at the start of 2022.

“Nearly two years on, we are still waiting for a comprehensive funding plan for rolling out hybrid closed-loop systems.”

In its Diabetes Tech Can’t Wait report last year, the charity said just 14.5% of adults in Scotland with the condition were using an insulin pump, with only 5.9% having a CGM fitted.

One campaigner pressed First Minister Humza Yousaf on the issue last year during the SNP leadership campaign, raising questions with the then health secretary during a hustings event.

At the time, he said Yousaf said he was “more than happy” to look at the finance and funding for such devices.

With diabetes having the potential to cause long-term complications in sufferers – including eye problems, foot problems and kidney issues – Yousaf accepted “giving people the equipment they need is essential in order to reform the health service and invest in the technology so that people don’t end up in hospital”.

Mr Kinnear said: “The Scottish Government has taken some important steps to support the rollout of diabetes technology but the number of people with type 1 diabetes using technology is too low, and for too many people across Scotland it simply isn’t available.

“In England, roughly two months after the National Institute for Health and Care and Excellence announced their appraisal for hybrid closed-loop systems, there is now a clear plan for rolling out this life-changing technology to certain groups of people living with type 1 diabetes.

“NHS England has confirmed that it will cover 75% of the costs for the local health board. People will have to meet the criteria and the plan is over five years, however this is a huge step forward.

“Our Diabetes Tech Can’t Wait report sets out clear recommendations for the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. We’ve seen universal support for diabetes technology. But now we need to action to roll it out so that Scotland is not left out of the loop.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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