48,000 additional people with diabetes in Wales by 2035

November 14, 2023 - 264 views

Around one in 11 adults in Wales could be living with diabetes by 2035 if current trends continue, according to a new analysis by Public Health Wales on World Diabetes Day.

This would be an additional 48,000 people with the disease, and a 22 per cent increase compared with 2021/22.

An increase like this would put significant additional pressure on health services.  Diabetes related hospital spells cost the Welsh NHS an average of £4,518 per spell in 2021/22, not including spells requiring amputations.  £105 million was spent on drugs to manage diabetes in Wales in 2022/23.

More than 200,000 people in Wales are already living with diabetes, around eight per cent of adults.  Around 90 per cent of these cases have type 2 diabetes, over half of which could be prevented or delayed with behaviour changes.

Public Health Wales leads the All Wales Diabetes Prevention Programme, which is funded by the Welsh Government and delivered locally by dedicated trained healthcare support workers and dietetic leads working in primary care.

The programme supports people at higher risk of type 2 diabetes to make changes to their diet and to be more physically active.

People are identified as being at risk through a blood test, called an HbA1c test, which measures a person’s average blood sugar (glucose) levels over the last two to three months.

Eligible people in areas where the programme is being rolled-out are referred to a healthcare support worker who will talk to them about what they can do to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  They can also be referred to additional sources of support.

Since the All Wales Diabetes Prevention Programme launched in June 2022 it has offered support to more than 3,000 people across Wales.  It is now being delivered in 32 of the 60 primary care clusters in Wales. 

Dr Amrita Jesurasa, Consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said:

“There has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of people living with diabetes in Wales in just over the last 10 years - an increase of 60,000 people. 

“Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of sight loss and a contributor to kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.  In 2021/22 alone, more than 560 people in Wales underwent amputations linked with diabetes.

“The increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes is therefore very concerning for the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales, as well as recognising the extra pressure this puts on health services.

“But the good news is that by supporting people to make behaviour changes, over half of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented.  The main risk factors which people can take action on include having a healthier weight, eating a healthy diet, and being physically active.

“The independent process evaluation of the programme showed that nearly half of those who attended an appointment with us and completed a survey were unaware they were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes before receiving information about the programme.  That is why it’s so important for people to find out their level of risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

“Finding out only takes a few minutes, and people can do this by using Diabetes UK’s Know Your Risk tool. This is an important first step because by understanding their risk, people can take action. 

“For those at high risk, this could include being referred to the All Wales Diabetes Prevention Programme if they are eligible for the programme and it is available locally.”

On World Diabetes Day, Public Health Wales is publishing a range of reports and data about the disease in Wales.