39% of diabetes sufferers denied vital test strips to monitor blood levels as health bosses ‘ration’ to save money

By Amelia Goswell

Diabetes sufferers are being denied the chance to monitor their blood glucose levels as vital test strips are being rationed to save money, according to a new report.

A worrying 39% of people with diabetes who responded to a survey had either been refused a prescription for blood glucose test strips or had their prescription restricted.

The report was made by Diabetes UK, the leading UK charity that campaigns on behalf of those with diabetes.

It suggests that almost a quarter of people who said they had their prescriptions restricted had been told by their GP that this was due to rationing policies issued by local health managers.

Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: “Test strips are the most basic of tools for managing Type 1 diabetes and insulin-treated Type 2 diabetes so it is very worrying that so many people are telling us they are having their test strips rationed because of cost saving measures.

“When people requiring test strips have them restricted or denied it has a huge impact on their life. Our survey showed a lack of test strips was stopping  them  driving, exercising or knowing how much insulin to take when they are eating or whether they are experiencing a ‘hypo’  which needs to be treated immediately.

“This is causing distress and anxiety and is making it hard for people to manage the condition.”

The charity says that rationing blood glucose test strips because of financial constraints is an unacceptable example of short-termism that could be putting people’s health at risk.

They warn it is also storing up long term costs for the NHS because diabetes complications are extremely expensive to treat.

The strips used to measure blood glucose levels are essential for all people with Type 1 diabetes and people with Type 2 diabetes on certain medication, who need to know their blood glucose levels in order to be able to adjust them accordingly.

Adjustment of medication and therefore blood glucose testing is required for performing daily life activities such as eating and exercising.

Failure to do so can lead to short term complications such as hypoglycaemia and also diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by untreated consistent high blood glucose levels which is potentially fatal. 

In the long term high blood glucose levels can lead to serious complications such as amputation, blindness and stroke.

Diabetes UK is calling on health leaders to remove restrictive policies on blood glucose monitoring and wants access to test strips made on a case-by-case basis and in a joint decision-making process between the person with diabetes and their clinician.

The Department of Health has recently written to all GPs to tell them that people with Type 1 diabetes should not have their access to test strips restricted.

This follows comments made by the Health Minister Anna Soubry in Parliament that rationing of blood glucose test strips is ‘unacceptable’.

She adds that rationing strips to save money ‘does not make any sense’ because it is putting people at increased risk of complications that are hugely expensive to treat.

Ms Young said: “We now want to see GPs and healthcare professionals take heed of our report and ensure decisions about blood glucose monitoring and access to test strips are made on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the person with diabetes and their health care professional.”

Diabetes costs the NHS around 10billion annually and 80% of this spend goes on treating complications.

Diabetes UK has also launched a new advocacy pack to provide guidance to people with diabetes who have had their access to test strips restricted. The advocacy pack and the Test Strips report are available at

Picture courtesy of Alisha Vargas, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles