A study conducted by researchers at Oxford University suggests that the NHS program for tackling Type II diabetes may have minimal impact.
The screening procedure maybe unsuccessful owing to the fact that inaccurate blood tests would provide too many people with an incorrect diagnosis.
Additionally, the study suggests that lifestyle changes advocated by the government have had a minimal success rate in terms of reducing the incidence of diabetes in England.
Defending its initiative intended to tackle the illness, the director of the NHS programme suggested that its approach is based on robust evidence.
The programme began last year and will cover all of England by the end of the decade.
Type II diabetes is already acknowledged to be of epidemic proportions in England, with the condition leading to 22,000 early deaths annually and also costing the NHS in excess of £8 billion.
3.2 million Britons already have Type II diabetes, and this is expected to escalate further still to in excess of 5 million by 2025.
The UK’s National Diabetes Prevention Programme, which aims to identify thousands of people at high risk of developing the condition each year, follows a “screen and treat” approach.
This involves a screening test for pre-diabetes, then tailored treatment or advice on diet and lifestyle to prevent the disease developing.
But after analysing the results of 49 studies of screening tests and 50 intervention trials, University of Oxford researchers asserted that the programme would fail to address the difficulties of many most at risk.
The authors concluded: “As screening is inaccurate, many people will receive an incorrect diagnosis and be referred on for interventions while others will be falsely reassured and not offered the intervention. These findings suggest that ‘screen and treat’ policies alone are unlikely to have substantial impact on the worsening epidemic of Type 2 diabetes.”
However, Matt Fagg, programme director for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, suggested that the measures taken by the NHS can be considered a key part of the solution to tackling diabetes, and have been “based on a comprehensive collation of robust evidence”.
“Diabetes prevention also needs to start even earlier – we’re committed to reducing obesity and creating a more active culture so that we see fewer people at risk in the first place,” Fagg commented.
And Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes for NHS England, also defended the NHS programme, suggesting that it has had positive impacts on the lives of diabetes sufferers.
“The programme empowers people who have already been identified through routine clinical practice to reduce their risk. As this BMJ paper highlights, such lifestyle interventions have been clearly shown to work. The NHS is not willing to sit idly by while these individuals progress to Type 2 diabetes”.
The mooted sugar tax, announced by the government recently, is one measure intended to help reduce the incidence of diabetes in Britain.