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GPs told: don't waste cash on home glucose testing

GP diabetes experts have claimed GPs are wasting money on home blood glucose tests for patients with type 2 diabetes.

Dr Eugene Hughes, Primary Care Diabetes Europe executive, said some GPs were squandering the limited funds by 'willy nilly' prescribing of strips and urged PCTs to restrict use of the tests and plough the cash back into GP diabetes care.

The call came after figures revealed last week by the Prescription Pricing Authority showed glucose monitoring strips now cost the NHS over a quarter more than oral diabetes drugs.

Quarterly spending on the tests rose 47 per cent to £28.2 million for January-March this year compared to the same period in 2001 and almost match spending on intermediate- and long-acting insulins.

The NHS National Prescribing Centre, which informs the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, ruled last year there was 'no evidence' blood testing was better than urine testing in improving glucose control and that the ideal testing frequency was unknown.

Dr Hughes, a GP in Ryde, Isle of Wight, said: 'It's important for PCTs to have a protocol for testing that recommends who should be using blood tests and who should be using urine tests.'

He was backed by Dr Peter Tasker, former head of Primary Care Diabetes UK. He said he worried some GPs were giving all newly diagnosed cases the tests as a 'knee-jerk response' to targets in the new contract and national service framework for diabetes.

Dr Tasker, a GP in King's Lynn, Norfolk, said: 'I don't think we're being careful enough. It's as if there's an almost automatic response now in getting people to test their blood glucose.'

But Dr Roger Gadsby, adviser to NICE diabetes guidance, senior lecturer in general practice at the University of Warwick, and a GP in Nuneaton, said the rise was 'partly understandable and justifiable'.

He added: 'We're having hugely increased numbers of patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes ­ and more and more are on insulin and will need blood glucose strips.'

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