A SHARP rise in the number of people suffering diabetes has left Suffolk with a drugs bill of nearly £20million in only four years – with the cost of treating type 2 of the condition rocketing nearly 50 per cent.

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An expert at Ipswich Hospital told The Star rates of type 2 diabetes – which is commonly linked to unhealthy lifestyles – are escalating at a “very worrying rate”.

Gerry Rayman, consultant physician and head of the hospital’s diabetes service, said Suffolk has also seen a higher than average rise in the number of young children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the last year.

Official NHS Suffolk figures reveal the spiralling cost of the disease – totalling £19,676,758 since 2008.

In 2008/9 the drugs bill cost the county £4,365,465. That figure rose by more than a quarter to £5,503,897 in 2011/12.

Nine out of ten diabetes sufferers have type 2 diabetes which is strongly linked to being overweight, obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.

Nationally Dr Rayman said type 2 diabetes is the “major burden” on the health service.

In Suffolk treating type 2 diabetes soared by 47pc from £1,647,586 in 2008/9 to £2,422,630 last year.

“The number of people with diabetes in east Suffolk has gone up from 6,700 in 1995 to 15,000 people now,” said Dr Rayman.

“It is a huge increase and the majority of that increase is those with type 2.

“Rates of type 2 are escalating. It is very worrying but the number of people with type 1 diabetes is also increasing, particularly in the under fives.

“We have seen a significant increase in that age group in Suffolk – much greater than in the rest of the country. We don’t know why, it may just be an off year but it is a concern.

“There have been a significant number of new therapies for diabetes which are more expensive, which has added to the costs – not only an increase in the number of people with diabetes but new drugs with higher costs.”

Dr Rayman said improved education programmes for those with the condition was vital if Suffolk is to reduce the drugs bill.

“If you do that you can actually save money on drugs.

“We need to be much better at education – programmes should be a priority for all PCTs and CCGs – that is not the case at the moment.

“Nationally only 0.05pc of diabetes expenditure is on diabetes education.”

Last month The Star revealed that more children required supersize school uniforms as the level of childhood obesity rises.

In 2010/11 8.3 pc of children at reception age were obese – but by the time they reach year six that figure had leapt to 16.8pc.

n What do you make of the figures? Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail lizzie.parry@archant.co.uk

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