Diabetes checks fell by more than a third during the pandemic, a study suggests, as researchers warned a lack of face-to-face GP appointments meant the shortfall would continue.
The study, published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, analysed family doctor records of more than 600,000 people with Type 2 diabetes and estimated check-ups in the entire population fell by 7.4 million between March and December 2020.
Across the UK, 20.3 million checks were expected to take place during this period, but only around 12.8 million took place, the researchers said, a fall of around 36 per cent.
Estimates suggest around 4.9 million people have diabetes in the UK, 90 per cent of whom have Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes checks are carried out in GP surgeries and include measuring blood pressure and weight, urine tests for protein, and blood tests for cholesterol, kidney function and average sugar level.
Around 31,800 fewer people with Type 2 diabetes were prescribed new diabetes medication and 14,600 fewer were prescribed a new type of blood pressure-lowering drug, the study found.
New blood pressure drug prescriptions dropped by around a fifth, which the researchers said was “concerning” and was “perhaps caused by less frequent monitoring and restricted face-to-face clinical contacts”.
It added any further reduction in monitoring and prescriptions could increase the risk of death and long-term complications.
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Dr Matthew Carr, of the University of Manchester, who led the study, said: “Health checks for people with Type 2 diabetes are generally carried out in general practice, and, as face-to-face appointments aren’t yet back up to pre Covid-19 levels, delays are likely to continue.
“As a result, there’s an urgent need to reduce the harm caused by these changes to the way care has been delivered.
“Although it’s not possible to estimate the number of people who have missed out on a check, we are able to analyse health care records to identify the number of processes that took place.”
The results also showed older people with Type 2 diabetes from deprived areas were most likely to miss out on checks.
The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, a partnership between the University of Manchester and The Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust.