Type 1 diabetes patients will be able to receive the Freestyle Libre glucose monitor on prescription from the NHS from April 2019.
The wearable sensor, which is the size of a £2 coin and is worn on the arm, will be available for all patients who qualify for it in line with clinical guidelines and will be funded by next year’s funding for local health groups.
The announcement, on World Diabetes Day, from NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens comes as the health service bids to end the variation that people face in accessing it in different parts of the country.
Simon Stevens said: “As the NHS prepares to put digital health and technology at the heart of our long-term plan for the future, NHS England is taking important action so that regardless of where you live, if you’re a patient with Type 1 diabetes you can reap the benefits of this life improving technology.”
The NHS says there are over 3 million people in England who are living with a diabetes diagnosis – with an estimated 300,000 that have Type 1 diabetes.
FreeStyle Libre monitors help patients monitor their blood sugar levels meaning they can take action when they rise or drop without having to do as many finger-prick checks.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK welcomed the end of a “postcode lottery” surrounding the devices.
He said: “This decision demonstrates that the NHS is seizing the opportunities presented by new technology, but also that it has listened to the voices of many thousands of people living with and affected by diabetes across the UK. Everyone who has called for fair and equitable access to this technology – through both funding and eligibility criteria – should feel rightly proud that they been heard today.
“The diabetes crisis is a fight that must be fought on many fronts, and Diabetes UK will continue to champion access to new and established technology – and gold standard care – wherever variation and inaccessibility exist.”
It’s estimated that 3-5% of Type 1 diabetes patients have access to the device but if clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were following guidance correctly, the figure could rise to 20-25%.
Dr Partha Kar, associate national clinical director for diabetes at NHS England said: “This is an exciting and welcome step forward as the aim is to have uniform prescribing policy across the NHS, irrespective of where someone with Type 1 diabetes lives. This will be based on previous national guidance issued- with the provision of updating it as further evidence accrues.”