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Research recently published in the BMJ suggests that the 'screen and treat' method to treat diabetes is ineffective.

Type 2 diabetes leads to 22,000 early deaths every year in England and treating the disease costs the NHS just over £8 billion, 9% of its annual budget. With instances of Type 2 diabetes on the rise, implementing effective ways of identifying those at risk and preventing them from the developing the disease is crucial.

The current prevention programme, launched by the NHS in 2015, identifies those at high risk of developing diabetes through two types of blood test, conducted as part of an NHS health check. Those flagged as being at risk are then offered follow-up interventions including lessons on healthy eating, help to lose weight and bespoke exercise programmes.

Following an analysis of the results of 49 studies of screening tests and 50 intervention trials at the University of Oxford (and supported by UCLPartners), the research published in the BMJ concluded that the blood tests used to detect those at high risk of developing the disease were often inaccurate, leading to some people receiving an incorrect diagnosis and being referred by their GP for interventions while others were falsely reassured and not offered interventions.

In an article in UCLPartners, SPCR lead at UCL Professor Elizabeth Murray commented "The programme contains information, behaviour change tools, and provides emotional support through a mixture of videos, graphics and text.  It is suitable for people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, and can be used by people with low literacy.

While preventing type 2 diabetes is clearly vital, effective support for people who already have established diabetes to maintain their health and avoid complications is crucial to ensure this large population have a good quality of life and make cost savings for our health service.” 

Professory Murray conducted a School funded feasibility study of HeLP-Diabetes to determine its acceptability to practices and patients. In addition, she leads a project that aims to find out the views of patients and primary care professionals after using the programme in a project entitled: Patients' and primary care professionals' views on, and preferences for, a digital diabetes prevention programme among individuals at high risk of developing diabetes

We acknowledge UCLPartners, 13 January 2017 for some of the content in this article.

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