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GPs could save thousands of pounds by following new expert advice and not prescribing self-monitoring strips for many patients with diabetes, research suggests.

A long-running dispute over which patients should monitor their glucose levels has led to dramatic differences in practice across the country, according to a study in this month's Diabetic Medicine.

The study found the proportion of patients on oral hypoglycaemic therapy who were prescribed strips varied from 12 to 100 per cent at different practices. Overall, 70 per cent of patients in primary care received the strips, which cost the NHS nearly £100 million per year.

Yet a separate consensus report in Diabetes and Primary Care concluded GPs should only offer the strips to patients at risk of hypoglycaemia.

It said those whose disease was controlled by diet, exercise or many drugs did not need to self-monitor, although those on sulphonylureas should test their blood glucose at least three times a week, because of their hypoglycaemia risk.

Dr Eugene Hughes, Isle of Wight GP and member of Primary Care Diabetes Europe, welcomed the report as the 'definitive statement'.

He said: 'This has been a contentious issue for some years and these are some of the biggest names in diabetes. They have come out with a solution to the problem. I follow it myself.'

He said too many patients were currently being offered self-monitoring and that the new report could be used by PCTs to draw up local guidelines.

The report also concluded that patients with type 2 diabetes who use multiple daily insulin injections should monitor their blood glucose four or more times a day.

By Cato Pedder

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