Tackling diabetes – worrying news

I’m sure I wasn’t alone this week among cCLOA members to be in a state of “non – shock” by the breaking news that “the majority of NHS spending on diabetes is avoidable”. The predictability of the report follows equally worrying reports on obesity levels across the population, and closer to home for our sector, that around 50% of adults in England remain inactive.

The report from the journal Diabetic Medicine suggests that 80% of the NHS’s £9.8bn annual UK diabetes bill goes on the cost of treating complications with experts saying much of this is preventable with health checks and better education – something the Department of Health says it is tackling.

The report also predicts that by 2035, diabetes will cost the NHS £16.8bn, 17% of its entire budget.

Worrying messages of course, but more worrying for me was the almost complete absence of reference to sport, leisure and physical activity as a necessary part of the healthy lifestyle and preventative solution. We often get fixated about the need to evidence the contribution of culture and sport to the big issues in society – but in this case the evidence is already there and in fact recently used in the revised DH physical activity guidance

Baroness Barbara Young, from Diabetes UK – one of the charities involved in the Impact Diabetes report said,

“The report shows that without urgent action, the already huge sums of money spent on treating diabetes will rise to unsustainable levels that threaten to bankrupt the NHS.  But the most shocking part of this report is the finding that almost four-fifths of NHS diabetes spending goes on treating complications that in many cases could have been prevented….We need to stop this now and make sure people get the right sort of care early on in their condition.”

Baroness Young speculated that investing in better education and more frequent health checks to reduce the risk of complications could actually be less expensive than the current approach.

Lucky for me then, that I recently took advantage of an over 40’s health check (yes over 40!) and walked away with a slip of paper indicating a BMI and cholesterol ratio that need some attention, albeit on the low risk margins. Without being dismissive of the health check, it could have been so much more of a joined up information service for me to do something about the waist size.

Thousands of these checks will be taking place across the country this year, no doubt and I can’t help feeling that as a sector we remain low profile as cost effective solution in the eyes of those local health decision makers.  I generalise of course as many colleagues are raising the physical activity agenda successfully, but I sense that a sustained bout local and national advocacy and influence will be required to make a real step change in broadening the thinking and joining up locally in pursuit of activity led health outcomes.

So here’s a call to action for cCLOA members…and the sector as a whole to get our messages heard around joined up collaborative solutions for improving local health priorities. cCLOA will be focusing on this campaign agenda over the summer to support your local approaches, but we also want to share what is working locally.

So make a point this week of:

  • Saving the date for our annual meeting on June 15th – Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence, NICE will lead a session on the important role that activity plays in promoting well-being, promoting health and preventing disease.
  • Joining the debate at the cCLOA Online Forum
  • Playing a role in supporting our Health and Well Being advocacy report this summer by sending in your case studies

Best regards

Richard Hunt, Chair, Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association


  1. There are 3.8 million people living with diabetes in theUK.
  2. The study looked at annual direct patient care costs for both types of diabetes, with Type 2 at £8.8bn being far higher than that of Type 1 at £1bn.
  3. Both Type 1 diabetes, which tends to appear in childhood, and Type 2 diabetes, often linked to diet, lead to problems controlling the amount of sugar in the blood.
  4. Complications occur when people with diabetes sustain high levels of glucose over a long period. This can lead to increased chances of developing disease-related complications, such as kidney failure, nerve damage, damage to the retina, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

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