Before this unthinkable global pandemic hit, we at the Diabetes Safety Organisation had been striving to increase awareness and safety around a known hidden condition that has been called a national epidemic by the NHS for several years, but with limited effect. Rightly or wrongly it feels like now is the time we will have the most impact on our campaign as people are significantly more aware of the delicate nature of the human body and that we need to take action to save lives.
In the UK, someone is diagnosed with diabetes every 2 minutes, that equates to 700 people a day, which is a staggering 255,500 people a year. We know that it is quite different from COVID-19, but diabetes kills somewhere in the region of 500 people a week from its complications resulting in circa 26,000 deaths every year. In addition, there are over 170 lower limb amputations a week from diabetes. It is also the leading cause of blindness in the working population. Like COVID-19 it cannot be seen but it is a slow disease taking potentially years to do the internal damage that eventually can lead to loss of life.
What is particularly disturbing is that further to recent research carried out in the US, it appears that mortality rates are higher in people with diabetes among COVID-19 patients. Estimates indicate that death rates are four times higher among people with diabetes and hyperglycaemia who are infected with COVID-19.
Unlike Covid-19 we have the medications and lifestyle solutions that can slow down the condition, halt it and in some cases reverse it. Currently there are 12.6 million people at risk of developing diabetes with all the complications that come with it. Overall, in the UK, a third of the population either have the condition, have pre-diabetes or are at increased risk of it.
These statistics apply to work forces, at the current time companies are struggling to keep production going and staff safe and in work. If a third of all staff in any one company (a number, we are quickly heading to) had diabetes there would be:
- Increased time off work
- Decreased productivity
- Hypos at work and whilst driving, creating criminal liable safety risks
- Increased corporate liability
- Increased monitoring and regulations through the DVLA
Yet what are workplaces currently doing to ensure the health and safety of their staff around this known national epidemic. Not enough!
We know the DVLA have in place strict regulations round diabetes and if they are not followed imprisonment can follow. However, there are currently no regulations on construction sites or non-designated roads, leaving people’s health and safety at significant risk. The Health and Safety at work act 1974 places a duty on every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable that employees and non- employees affected by what the employer does, are not exposed to a risk to their health safety or welfare.
We are working hard with companies, unions, associations and key influencers to change this and get companies to sign up to the Tackling Diabetes Safety Charter to ensure the health and safety of their staff and prevent litigation on their companies. Diabetes is leaving people at risk, but we have the knowledge, skills and medications to lower the harrowing statistics associated with diabetes. Join us and sign up to the Tackling Diabetes Safety Charter and help make a difference.