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NHS enhances diabetic care as a third of England’s Covid-19 deaths linked to diabetes


"It is thought that the risk to people with diabetes and the virus is in line with the extra risk seen in other infectious conditions such as pneumonia," said an NHS report. (iStock)
"It is thought that the risk to people with diabetes and the virus is in line with the extra risk seen in other infectious conditions such as pneumonia," said an NHS report. (iStock)

DIABETIC people face a “significantly higher risk” of dying due to Covid-19 complications, according to NHS research.

About a third of coronavirus deaths in English hospitals were associated with diabetes, the study said.

People living with type 1 diabetes are at three and a half times the risk, and people living with type 2 are at double the risk of dying in hospital with the virus, compared with people without diabetes.

The overall death rate for people with diabetes doubled during the early stage of the pandemic, the study observed, adding that men, people of black or Asian ethnicity, and people living in more deprived communities, were at higher risk.

The study, however, noted that the “strongest risk factor for dying with the virus” was age, and “people with type 1 diabetes are on average younger than people with type 2 diabetes”.

The research suggested that the threat for those under 40 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes was “very low”, with no recorded deaths in those under 20.

In people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, even when all other known factors were taken into account, higher blood glucose levels and obesity were linked to higher risk.

In both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, pre-existing issues such as kidney disease, heart failure and stroke increased the patient’s vulnerability.

“This research shows the extent of the risk of coronavirus for people with diabetes and the different risks for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” said Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity and lead author of the study.

“Importantly, it also shows that higher blood glucose levels and obesity further increase the risk in both types of diabetes.

“This can be worrying news but we would like to reassure people that the NHS is here for anyone with concerns about diabetes – and has put extra measures in place to help people and keep them safe, including online sites to support people to care for themselves, digital consultations, and a dedicated new helpline for advice and support for people treated with insulin.”

NHS England has called on people with diabetes to access help available to them, including a new dedicated helpline and online tools to help manage the condition during the outbreak.

Video consultations and online appointments, as well as routine discussions with GPs, are among a range of measures that the NHS has adopted.

It has also launched a helpline, together with Diabetes UK, Novo Nordisk and Insulet, to advise those who need help with insulin.

Patients will also receive additional support from online education services for type 1 and type 2 diabetes to help them manage their condition better, the NHS said.