WEARSIDE health campaigners today spoke of their concern after a report showed a record number of people have been diagnosed with diabetes.
The figure of three million people in Britain, equivalent to 4.6 per cent of the population, is growing, and experts warned it was a “grim staging post towards a public health emergency”.
Researchers for Diabetes UK and Tesco found 132,000 people were diagnosed with the disease over the last year, and a further 850,000 people are thought to have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
Unless more is done to prevent the condition and help those who have it, experts fear the increase could see the NHS burdened with unsustainable costs – with huge implications for public health.
Alan Jackman, secretary and treasurer of the Sunderland Diabetic Support Group, said: “This research is very worrying, but not surprising. Every year, it gets worse and worse.
“This is a growing problem, and I can only see the figures getting higher.”
Every year, 24,000 people with diabetes die earlier than expected in England and Wales, a situation that is expected to get even worse without urgent action.
Tesco and Diabetes UK have launched a partnership that will see the supermarket aim to raise £10million for the charity to tackle the disease and help people affected by it.
The partnership will also fund the biggest ever public awareness campaign on Type 2 diabetes risk factors, aiming to reach the estimated seven million people at high risk.
Mr Jackman, 66, from Southwick, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2002, said: “Here in the North East, we do have a reputation of having poor eating habits and unhealthy lifestyles.
“But it still comes as a shock when you are told you have diabetes. You can feel perfectly fit and healthy.
“However, care has improved a great deal over the years.
“People just need to listen and take notice of the advice they are given by health professionals.”
Funds raised by the partnership will help to pay for pioneering research into a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes, offering real hope for thousands of children and adults.
Through risk assessments available to customers in pharmacies, the partnership will help also to identify some of the 850,000 people who have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
The partnership aims to provide information and advice to almost a million people with Type 2 diabetes and will also fund a series of “Living with Diabetes” days around the UK that will help people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes understand how to best manage their condition.
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “We are hugely concerned that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has reached three million for the first time, and there is no reason to think this will mark the end of what has been a rapid rise in the condition.”
The Sunderland Diabetic Support Group meets in the boardroom of Monkwearmouth Hospital, Newcastle Road, on the third Wednesday of every month at 7pm.
Full details at www.sunderland.diabetesukgroup.org.