Insulin Discovery Centenary

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 1st September 2021.

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Photo of Sandesh Gulhane Sandesh Gulhane Conservative

I thank Emma Harper for bringing the debate to the chamber. I declare an interest as a practising doctor, as noted in my entry in the register of members’ interests.

We have heard about insulin and its invention from other members, so instead of going back to that, I will answer a simple question: what is insulin, and why is it important? Just behind the stomach sits an organ called the pancreas. In a healthy person, it makes insulin in response to blood sugar levels. The insulin drops the levels of blood glucose and drives it into the cells, giving them energy. People who have type 1 diabetes unfortunately cannot produce insulin because their own immune system is attacking and destroying the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, and there is nothing that patients can do about contracting it. We have incredible new insulin delivery methods that can improve people’s lives, but not everyone has access to them. I urge the Scottish Government to look at that, as was mentioned earlier.

However, type 1 diabetes accounts for less than 10 per cent of the story. Type 2 diabetes presents a huge and growing concern in Scotland and around the world. In Scotland, the number of new cases has been growing year on year, with the majority among those aged over 40.

Diabetes is a huge problem for us in the national health service. It accounts for 10 per cent of the entire NHS budget. Of that money, 80 per cent—8 per cent of the entire NHS budget—is spent on dealing with complications of diabetes such as loss of sight, loss of feeling, heart attacks and strokes. Diabetes also affects our black and Asian communities far more, with large numbers of people in those communities going completely undiagnosed.

We need to prevent people from contracting type 2 diabetes, so I have been working hard to get people active. I visited the Woodland Trust in Dumbarton, which provides an incredible area for our families to explore. I also visited the RSPB’s site close to Bearsden, where people with anxiety can be referred; it also provides wonderful areas for exploration and even picnics.

I am also a paths champion for Ramblers to encourage the upkeep of paths so that we can enjoy the countryside. By doing that, I hope to promote simple activity and mindfulness to get Scotland moving, especially with such amazing nature on our doorstep. I have met representatives from supermarkets to promote healthy eating and healthy, rather than unhealthy, foods.