Artificial pancreas devices to help 1,000 people with diabetes

Around 1,000 diabetes patients are to be given an artificial pancreas, the head of the NHS has announced.

As part of a pilot scheme, patients with type 1 diabetes will be able to use the devices which continuously measure a person’s glucose levels and deliver insulin directly to the bloodstream, automatically balancing the patient’s blood sugar levels.

Speaking at NHS Confederation’s conference, chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said that up to 1,000 patients will benefit from a pilot of the innovative “closed loop technology”.

The devices could help eliminate finger prick tests and prevent life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks.

Sir Simon said that the technology was just “one example of a whole fizz of innovation which continues across the health service”.

He said: “Living with diabetes is a daily challenge for millions of people across England, and this closed loop technology has the potential to make a remarkable difference to their lives.

“In a year that marks a century since insulin was discovered – which revolutionised the world of diabetes – this innovation is a prime example of the NHS’s continued progress in modern medicine and technology.”

Professor Partha Kar, NHS national speciality advisor for diabetes, added: “One hundred years after the discovery of insulin, the ‘artificial pancreas’ is a potentially revolutionary development in the treatment of diabetes.

“The NHS has long been at the forefront of clinical advances in care for major diseases, including diabetes, which have allowed patients to live longer and healthier lives.”

Sir Simon also hailed other medical advances in the health service, from new cancer treatments to drugs for spinal muscular atrophy and cystic fibrosis.

Meanwhile, other innovations mean there is a “realistic prospect” that HIV would be eliminated in this country by 2030, he said.

And “ground-breaking” deals with drug companies could mean that the nation is “well on track to eliminating hepatitis C, ahead of the 2030 goal set by the World Health Organisation”.

Sir Simon also praised the clinical trails which have taken place in the NHS during the pandemic.

“The latest estimate is that as a result of those, over a million lives have been saved worldwide thanks to research done in the NHS, over the course of months not years,” he added.

On data sharing, Sir Simon added: “Data sharing not only saves lives, but it also helps cut inequalities – part of the reason why we’ve successfully been able to target uptake redesign vaccine delivery models for people that we could see weren’t coming forward – it is precisely because of the ability to, in a trusted way, anonymously share data across the health service and see where we need the vaccine bus, where we need to work with the Imams and the mosques, where we need to encourage gap filling, making better use of pharmacists scenarios where people are otherwise not coming forward.

“So data sharing to target inequalities is going to be a key part of the innovative response.”