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‘Largest-ever’ diabetes awareness campaign to urge high-risk patients to visit their GP

People at high risk of of type 2 diabetes will be urged to see their GP to get a blood test under a £2m campaign run in thousands of pharmacies that will begin next month.

The Diabetes UK campaign - backed by supermarket giant Tesco - will use radio and digital advertising, as well as ‘outdoor’ publicity, such as on bus routes and in shopping centres, to encourage people to take an online risk assessment at pharmacies and then go to their GP for a blood test if they are deemed to be at risk.

The two-week campaign - the largest the charity has ever run - will be rolled out in September through over 5,000 pharmacies in areas with populations known to be at high risk of type 2 diabetes, in particular those with large black and ethnic minority populations and high levels of deprivation.

Areas targeted include several inner and outer London boroughs, a number of cities in the midlands and the north of England as well as Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Diabetes UK estimates there are around 850,000 people with undiagnosed diabetes in the UK and many more who are likely to go on and develop the condition in the next few years, yet awareness of the condition and its complications remains very low amongst those most at risk.

Previous, smaller initiatives run by the charity in conjunction with pharmacies have provoked criticism from some GPs in the past, for putting extra pressure on practices and potentially duplicating work done through the NHS Health Checks program.

But Dr Mo Roshan, a member of the council of healthcare professionals for Diabetes UK and a GP in Leicester, said the number of people approaching their GP for tests should be manageable.

He said: ‘We’re not thinking of huge numbers coming forward and submerging practices.’

Dr Roshan said he expected a few thousand people in Leicester, a city with a population of over 300,000 people, to come forward to have the risk assessment and then of these a few hundred to need blood glucose tests, ‘which, between 60 to 70 practices, is not too onerous’.

And he said the extra work involved in managing those identified with type 2 diabetes would ultimately funded by higher QOF prevalence figures and better diabetes control.

Moreover, Dr Roshan said the campaign follows the principles of the recent NICE guidelines on prevention of diabetes and complements the NHS Health Checks campaign, which he noted fails to detect diabetes in a significant proportion of people.

He added: ‘The hardest with any screening campaign is making people aware and then getting them into their practice to have the tests done.’

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, chair of Sefton LMC, commented: ‘This is a worthy campaign that will build on the sterling efforts of primary care in halving the number of “unknown diabetics” since the introduction of the QOF GP contract.

‘It is noteworthy that again general practices will meet such surges from special interest groups, without additional financial or staff resource. I predict in contrast the secondary care sector rise of a small number of these individuals presenting with established complications, will be fully funded.’

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of GPC Scotland and a GP in Clydebank, said: ‘Obviously we’re very keen to find people with undiagnosed diabetes and make the diagnosis as soon as we can, but normally before you introduce screening you should really know you have the resources in place to deal with the potential workload you might create.

‘I would have concerns about how carefully targeted the risk assessment is. In our area practices are already absolutely pushed to the limit, I honestly don’t think we have the resources to do more screening for diabetes than we’re already doing at present.’