27 May 2020
NHS England has launched a specific support service for diabetes patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement of the dedicated support follows the publication of the results of research by the National Diabetes Audit that provided further evidence that diabetes, particularly if uncontrolled, worsens outcomes of COVID-19.
NHS England said a diabetes telephone helpline and an online tool will help diabetes patients who need advice about controlling their blood glucose levels.
The helpline is part of a package of measures already in place for people with diabetes or at risk, including the Diabetes Prevention Programme. Patients will also receive additional support from online education services for type 1 and type 2 diabetes to help them to manage their condition better.
Patients with diabetes are already on the clinically vulnerable list and should be strictly following social distancing measures. In March, this group was advised to only leave home when absolutely necessary, whilst those on the "extremely" vulnerable list have been advised not to leave their house at all.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the high proportion of people who have died who had diabetes does not, by itself, mean that diabetes is a significant enough risk factor for severe illness from COVID-19 for shielding to be advisable.
The research found that a third of COVID-19 deaths in hospitals in England between 1 March and 11 May were associated with diabetes: 7466 with type 2 diabetes and 365 with type 1 out of a total 23,804 deaths.
Patients with type 1 diabetes had a 3.5 times greater risk of dying with COVID-19 than people without diabetes; and patients with type 2 diabetes had double the risk of death compared with people without diabetes.
The study also shows that in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, even when all other known factors are taken into account, higher blood glucose levels and obesity are linked to higher risk.
Pre-existing kidney disease, heart failure and previous stroke also added to the risk of death for patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
NHS England’s research results are available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/type-1-and-type-2-diabetes-and-covid-19-related-mortality-in-england/
More information about the support for diabetes is available from NHS England is at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2020/05/nhs-expands-offer-of-help-to-people-with-diabetes-during-coronavirus-outbreak/