An estimated 2.5 million blood tests to diagnose diabetes were missed during the first six months of the pandemic, according to a study by The Benchmarking Partnership.
The research group also said a further 1.4 million routine blood tests which enable diabetic people to manage their condition were missed or delayed from the day of the first national lockdown on March 23, until September 30 2020.
This figure includes 500,000 tests for people considered to have high blood glucose levels, which increases their risk of serious problems like heart attacks, kidney disease, blindness and nerve damage.
The estimates are based on data extrapolated from six testing centres which support 3.6 million people in Britain, from October 2017 to September 2020.
Director of The Benchmarking Partnership, David Holland, said people with diabetes have been more likely to suffer with coronavirus because they have not had access to the crucial tests.
He said: “As many as a third of Covid-19 deaths in the UK have been people with diabetes, and more may be at risk of the worst of the virus’ effects because so many have been unable to manage their diabetes effectively or have gone undiagnosed.
“Uncontrolled diabetes wreaks havoc on the body.
“Failure to focus on the wider implications for people with diabetes and other groups with chronic conditions may put them at increased risk of poor outcomes from Covid-19, as well as longer-term health problems.”
He added: “Covid-19 caused more damage than we realised.
“Access to GP services became particularly difficult during the pandemic, with GP practices cancelling or postponing appointments for routine testing and review as the country went into lockdown.”
Nikki Joule, policy manager at charity Diabetes UK said the figures were “incredibly concerning”.
She added: “Early diagnosis of diabetes is vital in reducing the risk of potentially life-altering complications, such as heart attack and stroke.
“For those already living with the condition, blood tests provide crucial insight into how their diabetes is being managed, helping people understand, monitor and reduce their risk of developing complications.
“Diabetes is serious, and as we emerge from the pandemic, we know that many people are still waiting for a diabetes blood test or to see their diabetes team.”
Ms Joule welcomed the Government’s recent commitment to invest more in preventing type 2 diabetes, but said it must “urgently address” the backlog in routine care.