The cost to the NHS of prescribing drugs for diabetes has soared to almost £1 billion annually, as the number of people diagnosed with the disease has risen sharply alongside the surge in obesity.
£956.7m was spent by NHS England on prescribed diabetes drugs last year; representing 10.6% of the cost of all prescriptions issued by NHS primary care services in 2015/16.
More is now spent on medication for type 1 and type 2 diabetes than for any other ailment.
The number of diabetics across the UK as a whole has recently risen to more than four million and has increased by 65% over the last 10 years.
Diabetes is thought to cost the NHS about £10 billion, once the cost of treatment is included.
Last year a total of 49.7m items were prescribed for diabetes, compared to 27.1m a decade years earlier.
90% of diabetics have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, with lifestyle factors clearly playing a massive role in this epidemic.
90% of adults with type 2 diabetes aged 16-54 years are either overweight or obese.
Helen Donovan, the Royal College of Nursing’s health professional lead, stated that cuts to nursing support for diabetics meant that some patients were not getting the help they needed to manage their illness.
“These stark figures show the need for a greater focus on preventing type 2 diabetes. Encouraging healthier lifestyles would not only save the NHS money, it would improve countless lives. This is bad for the health service’s finances but more importantly it can be devastating for patients.”
NHS Digital’s findings show that the West Midlands is the region of England with the highest proportion of people over the age of 17 who are diabetic.
The south central area has the lowest prevalence rate, at 5.6%.
And the east London borough of Newham spends proportionately more of its drugs budget than anywhere else in England on diabetes medication, at 17.9%.
North Tyneside spends the lowest, at 7.4%.
Meanwhile, the spend on medication differed widely in different parts of England.
The cost per patient treated was highest in Warwickshire North, at £415 a head, and lowest in Northumberland (£239).
62% of adults were overweight or obese in England in 2012, while 6% of people aged 17 years or older had diagnosed diabetes in England in 2013.
In England, 12.4% of people aged 18 years and over with obesity have diagnosed diabetes; five times that of people with a healthy weight.
Men with a raised waist circumference are five times more likely to have been diagnosed diabetes than those without a raised waist circumference; women are over three times more likely.
Clearly tackling obesity can play a massive role in the fight against diabetes, yet results for 2014 showed that 61.7% of adults were overweight or obese (65.3% of men and 58.1% of women).