People with diabetes could suffer if the Department of Health goes ahead with planned cuts in the prices for glucose testing strips, an industry body has warned.
The department is consulting on plans to cut 15 per cent off the cost of supplying strips in primary care, claiming that there is a significant discrepancy between costs in primary care ? where strips are usually dispensed by pharmacists allowing patients to monitor glucose levels ? and in secondary care, where hospitals buy in bulk.
Doris-Ann Williams, director general of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, said: 'This could have a huge impact on patient welfare and represents a significant step backwards in the treatment of this ever-growing condition.'
BIVDA claims the price cut could force some products out of the market and lead companies to charge for monitoring meters, currently provided free, which cost up to£150; helplines, in some cases in several languages, and operational 24 hours a day; and websites, CD-ROMs and printed information about self-monitoring.
BIVDA points out that test strips are bought by chemists through wholesalers, which may deliver several times a day. Pharmacies stock several types of strips and monitors for different groups ? including blind people, older people and young people with diabetes. This means that the cost is higher than for hospitals, which buy just one type in bulk.
'I do suspect certain companies will no longer wish to operate in the UK and that will drive choice down,' said Ms Williams. One company has delayed expansion and Conservative leader David Cameron, who has a manufacturer in his Oxfordshire constituency, has also protested.
Government consultation on the price cuts closed on June 6. If the cuts go ahead, they will come into force at the beginning of August. BIVDA is asking for any changes to be delayed to allow the industry and patients time to adjust.
Diabetes UK director of care and policy Simon O'Neill stressed the importance of self-testing in avoiding complications. 'We are very concerned about any budget cuts which could affect patient choice and their health,' he said.
A DoH spokeswoman said the aim was to ensure value for money, without adversely affecting patient care or choice, and a dialogue with industry was important.