All 400,000 type 1 diabetic Britons to be offered high-tech implant

All 400,000 Britons with type 1 diabetes to be offered a high-tech implant that monitors their blood sugar level in real time

  • People with type 1 diabetes will be offered continuous blood glucose monitors
  • Device is no larger than £2 coin, sits on the arm and sends readings to a phone
  • Implant will mean not having to perform uncomfortable checks during the day
  • Some 400,000 Britons suffer from condition where they lack essential insulin

All 400,000 Britons with type 1 diabetes will soon be offered a high-tech implant that monitors their blood sugar level in real time, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The small gadget had been restricted by the NHS because of cost, and made available only to those most in need.

But Dr Partha Kar, NHS England’s national speciality adviser for diabetes, says patients will now have access to the expensive technology within weeks, marking the end of finger-prick blood tests.

Many people with type 1 diabetes, who lack the essential hormone insulin that controls blood sugar levels, have to perform uncomfortable checks at least four times a day.

All 400,000 Britons with type 1 diabetes will soon be offered a high-tech implant that monitors their blood sugar level in real time, The Mail on Sunday can reveal (stock photo)

The results show how much insulin – which helps the body absorb sugars in food – they will need to inject to keep their blood sugar stable and avoid potentially fatal spikes or falls.

The implant, called a continuous blood glucose monitor, is no larger than a £2 coin and sits on the arm, beaming updates to the user’s phone.

While the technology has been available in the UK for more than a decade, spending watchdogs judged it too expensive to offer to every patient. But NHS chiefs have announced they now plan to fund the monitors for all.

‘By March 31, everyone should be able to get a continuous glucose monitor if they want one,’ says Dr Kar.

‘There will be no criteria and no restrictions on who can have one. This represents a fundamental change in how type 1 diabetes patients manage their condition.’

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Without that, blood sugar levels can become dangerously high, causing serious damage to blood vessels that supply vital organs.

Dr Partha Kar, NHS England's national speciality adviser for diabetes, says patients will now have access to the expensive technology within weeks, marking the end of finger-prick blood tests

Dr Partha Kar, NHS England’s national speciality adviser for diabetes, says patients will now have access to the expensive technology within weeks, marking the end of finger-prick blood tests

If a patient goes untreated, they quickly develop life-threatening conditions such as heart and kidney disease.

To protect against these complications, type 1 diabetes patients monitor their blood sugar levels so they know how much insulin to inject before and after meals.

An accurate reading is essential. With too much insulin, the blood sugar drops and patients can suffer hypoglycaemia, which is sometimes fatal.

A continuous glucose monitor beams the information back to a smartphone. Alerts can be programmed to warn of dangerous highs or lows. The device is implanted just below the skin above the elbow.

Dr David Strain, a diabetes expert at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, says: ‘There’s been a realisation on the NHS that the price of these devices is far less than the cost of treating diabetes complications.

‘Giving more patients a monitor will mean fewer ending up in hospital in the long run.’