NHS Restricts Blood Sugar Test Strips

| April 18, 2017

If you have diabetes, or even if you have been told you are “prediabetic”, keeping a close eye on your blood sugar is essential. A tiny drop of blood placed on a test strip and inserted into a blood sugar meter gives a quick reading of the glucose level. But, in the UK, the NHS is limiting the supply of test strips, potentially endangering the health of diabetes patients.

A study commissioned by the charity Diabetes UK surveyed more than 6,000 people and discovered that a quarter of them had not been prescribed enough test strips to meet their needs. And a separate poll of over 1,000 people, about half of whom had type 1 diabetes, showed 27 per cent of them had found it difficult or impossible to get enough test strips.

It seems some GP practices have started rationing the strips following guidance from Clinical Commissioning Groups on the number of boxes of strips patients should be allowed each month. This is due to budget constraints – apparently, the withdrawal of a government subsidy – and a perception that, because the strips are free, patients are using too many.

People surveyed reported that rationing the test strips put them in the stressful situation of not knowing whether they should test their blood. Not monitoring blood sugar frequently enough increases the risk of diabetes-related complications, including hypoglycaemia, retinopathy and heart disease.

People with type 1 diabetes, and those with type 2 diabetes who take medication (e.g. sulphonylureas or glinides) that can cause low blood sugar, need to check their glucose levels every few hours. And special circumstances like illness, pregnancy or intense exercise may require testing ten or more times a day.

If you have trouble obtaining enough test strips for your needs, kick up a fuss. Test strips are a vital part of diabetes management and an adequate supply should be freely available to all patients.

This NHS penny-pinching just makes life harder for people with diabetes, who already have three times the usual risk of clinical depression. In my next blog post, I look at drug-free ways of lifting your mood.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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