More than 150,000 adults and children with type 1 diabetes in England and Wales will be offered an artificial pancreas on the NHS, a move that health experts have described as “life-changing” for people with the condition.
The wearable device, called a hybrid closed loop system, has been found to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range, reducing the risk of people suffering health complications from diabetes.
People with Type I diabetes commonly have to rely on finger prick blood tests or injecting insulin to control their blood sugar levels, causing disruption to their daily lives.
The technology works via a continuous glucose monitor sensor attached to the body which transmits data to a body-worn insulin pump.
This pump then calculates how much insulin is needed and delivers the precise amount to the body.
An NHS trial showed that the technology was more effective at managing diabetes than current devices, while requiring far less effort to use for patients.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said that it has agreed with NHS England that all children and young people women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, and those people who already have an insulin pump, will be the first to be offered a hybrid closed loop system as part of a five-year roll-out plan.
The technology will then be rolled out to adults with an average HbA1C reading of 7.5 per cent or more and those who suffer abnormally low blood sugar levels.
Nice guidelines recommend people should aim for an HbA1c level of 6.5 per cent or lower.
Around 400,000 people are currently living with type 1 diabetes in the UK, including around 29,000 children.
The NHS spends around 10 per cent of its entire budget on diabetes.
Professor Jonathan Benger, chief medical officer at Nice, said the technology would be a “game changer” for treating the condition.
“By ensuring their blood glucose levels are within the recommended range, people are less likely to have complications such as disabling hypoglycaemia, strokes and heart attacks, which lead to costly NHS care.
“This technology will improve the health and wellbeing of patients, and save the NHS money in the long term.”
Colette Marshall, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said the new technology “has the potential to transform the lives of many people with type 1 diabetes, improving both health and quality of life”.
Yasmin Hopkins, who took part in trials of the artificial pancreas, said: “From day one it was amazing. Before the closed-loop system, I would experience a lot of highs, which I’d then overcorrect, go low and eat a lot of sugar. All of that has been eradicated.
“This technology gives me the freedom to get on with my life and live without fear of what might happen in a few hours, days or years.”