Should Continuous Blood Glucose devices be available on the NHS?

I am normally one of the last people that is for change when new medication/devices become available for diabetics, or I have been in the past. On most occasions, against the advice of the doctors or nurses, I have decided that I have not wished to try the new treatments. Even when other people have told me how good they have found them and how much they have benefited from them. It is normally a few years down the line that someone manages to convince me to give it a go. Then I just think – why on earth didn’t I try that years ago? I do not know why I am like this, as I absolutely love new technology!

CGMs (Continuous Glucose Monitors) and similar devices, are small gadgets that monitor your blood for a continued amount of time. These have now been around for a few years, and as with all things, there seems to be a bit of competition developing, meaning you need to have a look or get some advice to see which one best suits your needs. Hopefully this will also bring the cost down, which might mean, they will become available on the NHS.

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Some continually monitor your glucose levels over 24 hours and others for around 8. With the ones that track what your sugar is doing over 8 hours, you attach a small sensor to the back of your arm, which is roughly the size of a two-pound coin. To keep it up to date, you either have to scan it within 8 hours with a small receiver that comes with the starter kit, or you can use your mobile phone, which I found was a lot more convenient. With the CGMs, the sensor is a bit different, but works in a similar way. If you are on an insulin pump, you can connect sync the sensor to the pump, so you can see a graph on there, as well as your mobile phone. You can also set an alarm, so if your sugar drops, or rises above a certain level, you will be warned, which is an enormous help, especially during the night.

You only have to hold your mobile phone over the sensor for a few seconds, for it to display what your current reading is, whether it’s going up, or down and how fast it’s changing. The graph is very good, as you can see what has been happening over the last 8 hours. I found this exceptionally good for helping me adjust my insulin during the night, as I could see that there was a sudden and rapid rise from 3am.

The sensors last for 2 weeks. It keeps you informed how much time you have left, so you know when it needs replacing. I found that the readings were a little off from what my blood testing kit said they were, but I was still very impressed and I would definitely be up for using the sensors long term. You do still need to do a couple of the old style tests, especially before driving. I normally use between 5 and 10 test strips a day with my old device. While using both, I cut that down to 2 or 3

There was no pain at all when attaching the sensor, in fact I didn’t feel a thing. The adhesive seems to be very good, as it lasted the whole time without even coming slightly off. It is waterproof, so no problem showering or swimming, although I did not do the later, so I cannot really comment on how long would be advisable to stay in a pool. I personally would rather have this device over the CGM, as they seem to be less intrusive. This is just my personal preference though, based on what I have seen and not from testing both devices. I would definitely like to try the CGM though and hopefully I will soon.

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Unfortunately, as in a lot of cases, it is the price that is the main reason why these accessories are not available on the NHS. In England alone, the cost for diagnostic and monitoring devices between 2015/2016 came to a staggering 186.6 million pound, so it is not hard to see why there is such reluctance to make the new gadgets available on the NHS.

I see the long term benefits of using such devices, even if the initial outlay is high, but unfortunately, that will not be the case for the person trying to make cuts within the NHS. I see this as being a long term solution, to help keep the costs down in the future. I think that if people have a better option to help keep their blood sugar levels under control, then as long as they test their blood and they are pretty good at looking after themselves, then they should be given the option to have these prescribed through the NHS!

One of the main reasons I liked the sensor, was the fact that it would tell you which way your sugar levels were going. It is extremely useful being able to see if your sugar levels are going up or down, and how fast the incline/decline is. When you have a low sugar, your body will produce glucose, the only problem is, it doesn’t know when to stop. This is why you end up with a seesaw effect. From being low, you eat or drink something to put your levels back up, just as your liver is pumping out glucose. Before you know it, your sugar has gone completely in the opposite direction!

Unfortunately, these sensors are not available on the NHS, unless you are unfortunate enough to have lost your hypo (low sugar) awareness. I understand the fact that they are expensive, but in the long term, I’m sure that it would be cheaper for the NHS. If a diabetic can get his/her sugar levels under control, they will have less chance of having complications when they are older. Amputations through diabetes are a big problem, as is diabetic retinopathy, both can be caused by poor control, and they also cost the NHS a huge amount of money. These devises have been made to make it easier for diabetics to gain and keep better control over their glucose levels, so why do people choose to prevent these technological advances being used for the purpose that they were created?