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Diabetes

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th February 2020.

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Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking in response to reports that the number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has risen by 40 per cent in the last 10 years. (S5F-03975)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Reducing the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is a priority. In 2018, we published “A Healthier Future—Framework for the Prevention, Early Detection and Early Intervention of type 2 diabetes”, which sets out measures to make a significant impact on prevention and remission by improving support for people with, or who are at risk of, type 2 diabetes. Since then, we have invested an additional £4.5 million to give people better access to weight-management services to support effective and sustained changes to diet and lifestyle. Diabetes Scotland said last week that creating

“healthy environments which support people to make healthier choices”

Is critical. That is why “A Healthier Future—Scotland’s Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan” sets out more than 60 wide-ranging actions to make it easier for people to eat well and have healthy weight.

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

I thank the First Minister for those comments, and I add my support for the great work that Diabetes Scotland does.

The reality is that type 2 diabetes is on the rise, which is a worrying trend. The number of people in Scotland who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is 250,000. However, it is estimated that up to 26,000 Scots are living with the condition but have not been diagnosed. The majority of those new cases will be linked to obesity, but the good news is that type 2 diabetes is not just treatable, but is preventable, and in many cases reversible, with the right mix of medication, diet and lifestyle changes.

In light of that, what specifically is being done to identify undiagnosed cases, so that those people can be treated? What is the Government doing to improve treatment of those who are currently living with the condition? More important, does the First Minister believe that it was a mistake to scrap the flagship policy of health checks for 40-year-olds in Scotland, given that that has removed a vital opportunity to identify potential cases at an earlier age?

The First Minister:

We encourage early detection and diagnosis across a range of conditions. Jamie Greene is right to focus on the importance of that. I am sure that he has read “A Healthier Future—Framework for the Prevention, Early Detection and Early Intervention of type 2 diabetes”, in which all those strands were deliberately included.

Prevention is key, which is why the healthy environment that Diabetes Scotland talks about is really important in supporting people to eat healthily in order to maintain healthy weight. Early detection is also important. I am happy to ask the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport to provide more details about how that aspect of the framework is being taken forward.

As with any condition, if it is not detected and diagnosed, treating it and—as Jamie Greene said—in the case of type 2 diabetes, possibly reversing it, are not possible. Those are important priorities, which is why they are deliberately focused on in the framework.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

The First Minister will be well aware that Scotland has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in Europe. It costs the NHS £1 billion a year in avoidable complications, and one in 10 hospital bed days relates to diabetes. Does the First Minister share my view that we need radical and immediate action to reduce the long-term complications of diabetes, which is a condition that maims, blinds and kills?

The First Minister:

In general terms, I share that view. Obviously, the specifics are important. As David Stewart knows from his long-standing interest in the topic, that means taking action across a range of areas, as I have just been saying.

Prevention remains the most important focus, in many respects. That is why we will, during this session, introduce a bill on restricting food promotions to ensure that people are supported to eat healthily. Treatment is also important, so there is a lot of investment and effort in our national health service to ensure that people have access to the best available treatment.

I appreciate David Stewart’s interest and I know that he is aware of the actions that are under way. The health secretary and others in the Government are always willing to have discussions about what more we can do to prevent people from getting diabetes, and to support those who have it to live with it in a way that—hopefully—sees the condition being reversed or which, at the very least, enables them to manage it without further complications.