NHS restricts essential diabetes equipment

According to Diabetes UK Cymru nearly a quarter of people with diabetes (over 23 per cent) in Wales have said they aren’t prescribed a sufficient amount of test strips. [1]

This supports recent findings by the charity, that people living with diabetes are being refused an essential piece of kit to monitor blood glucose by the NHS.


A new report, ‘Testing Times’, found that one in four people had either experienced restrictions or were refused test strips on the NHS compared to one in five people four years ago. [2]


The UK wide survey for Diabetes UK also found more than half (52 per cent) of people experiencing problems getting test strips had Type 1 diabetes. This is of particular concern as NICE recommends all adults with Type 1 diabetes should routinely self-monitor blood glucose levels, testing at least four times a day.


People with diabetes use test strips in blood glucose monitors that help them to be more in control of the condition. If not managed well, diabetes can lead to devastating complications such as amputations, blindness, heart disease and stroke.


The charity is also concerned that people with Type 2 diabetes say they were advised they did not need to test their blood glucose. Yet they should if their diabetes is treated with insulin and/or medication that can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). 


Liz Davies, 34, from Caerphilly was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a year ago and finds regular testing of her blood glucose levels essential. Her active lifestyle includes running and coaching athletics which means balancing her activity levels with her diet and the amount of insulin she takes is vital.


Liz said: “Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes can have a huge impact on your life and getting the balance right is essential. This is why I find it so important to test my blood glucose levels regularly, particularly as I’m such an active person.


“Unfortunately being able to access the test strips that I needed after I was first diagnosed became a constant battle. Every time I ordered more there was a lot of resistance. I was asked whether I really needed them and even told that I was testing too much and shouldn’t have any more.


“In the end I had no other option than to move from my GP practice to another one in the area, where I’ve had a completely different experience and haven’t had to fight for access to test strips. I think it is vitally important that people like me, who have Type 1 diabetes, are given the opportunity to manage our condition well and test strips are essential for this. They may cost a small amount of money each month but the savings that will come from people managing their condition well are huge in the long-term.”


Diabetes UK Cymru is calling for strong action and guidance across Wales to make sure that everyone with diabetes gets the kit they need to self-manage effectively. People with diabetes should not have to fight for this when they are already managing a condition that requires constant attention.


NICE need to review their guidance on self-monitoring for people with Type 2 diabetes and the NHS must make sure local policies reflect NICE guidance on self-monitoring for people with Type 1 diabetes.


Diabetes UK Cymru’s Director Dai Williams said: “No one with diabetes should have their test strips restricted. It is a false economy and cause people to face stressful decisions about when to test or not. As well as being vital for people with Type 1 diabetes, anyone with Type 2 diabetes can benefit from testing so should be supported to do so if it is helping them to better manage their condition. We urge people to challenge restrictions and refusals.


“The key is that testing is only useful if you do something with the results. Both people with diabetes and their healthcare professionals need to be clear about when and how people with diabetes need to use test strips to get the best possible outcomes with their diabetes. Local policies should allow sufficient choice and flexibility for individual circumstances to be taken into account when prescribing test strips and meters for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. We want to see every health board in Wales give people with diabetes in their area the chance to take control of their condition and having the right equipment, advice and support is vital.” 


Anyone having problems getting test strips on NHS prescription can call Diabetes UK’s helpline on 0345 123 2399 or visit the charity’s website for a free advocacy pack.


[1] The Diabetes UK 15 Healthcare Essentials Survey, published in 2017, found that 23.37 per cent of people in Wales (68 out of 291 people who responded) weren’t provided with a sufficient amount of test strips.



[2] The Test Strips survey 2016 found 1 in 4 people had either experienced restrictions or were refused test strips on the NHS.


  1. Testing Times report
  2. The test strip advocacy pack which is available for download at http://bit.ly/teststrippack
  3. Info graphs from information contained in the report


  • The Diabetes Clinical Lead and All Wales Diabetes Implementation Group should promote and share our report with all health boards.
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