Patient support charity Diabetes UK quizzed 484 specialist diabetes nurses in the four UK countries. Of these, 26 per cent reported that nurses at their trust had been made redundant, or trusts had cut posts because of budget restrictions.
As many as 7 per cent of nurses surveyed had been redeployed to work on general wards and 40 per cent of nurses said that time and budgets for training had been cut and study leave had been denied.
Specialist nurses were also being pressured to spend less time with patients so that they could see more in clinics and take on workload from redundant posts, according to preliminary results of the survey, due to be published next month.
Ian Powell, a diabetic patient and member of Diabetes UK, told a conference on the future of diabetes care in London that patient care was being affected. 'These findings are alarming, because posts are being cut and contact time for patients is being reduced because trusts do not have enough money to pay for specialist nurses,' he said.
Professor Stephen Gough, a diabetes specialist at University Hospital Birmingham foundation trust, said the financial squeeze was happening despite diabetes increasing rapidly among adults and children. 'The cost of treating obesity and diabetes is going to become much greater in future and we need to look at ways of prevention to stop it becoming a huge burden,' he said.
One report has suggested that the cost of treating diabetes could bankrupt the NHS within five years. Professor Gough said he did not expect this to happen, but that diabetes could account for a significant proportion of healthcare costs in the next five years.
Grace Vanderpool, a consultant nurse in diabetes with Hammersmith and Fulham PCT, said that undiagnosed diabetes was a huge problem in the UK. 'In my area, we have a working group across primary and secondary care which aims to identify people with the condition,' she said. Diabetes UK estimates that more than two million people in the UK have diabetes - and that another 750,000 remain undiagnosed.