The UK has a publicly funded healthcare system, collectively known as the National Health Service, which is made up for 4 systems; NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. The NHS was founded in 1948. In England, the NHS is broken down into smaller, more regional areas (known as Clinical Commissioning Groups) which manage the funding for that area.

What happens if you need to see a doctor?
Most people in England are registered with a local General Practitioner (GP) who deals with day to day health complaints. They can prescribe medication and make referrals for patients to see a specialist. When a GP prescribes medication for you, as standard there is a fee that you must pay when you go and get the medication, but there is no cost to see the GP. You can find more info here on costs of prescriptions. Some people, including those with type 1 diabetes, are exempt from paying any prescription charges.

Who decides what medicines a doctor can prescribe?
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) is the body that decides which medicines and medical technology – such as insulin pumps – are okay for doctors to give to patients. They produce ‘guidelines’ which should be followed by healthcare professionals.

Practically, what is it like to live with type 1 diabetes in the UK?
Insulin, test strips, ketone meters, insulin pumps (and supplies) and everything else type 1 related are all free to patients and are usually prescribed by a GP. Patients with type 1 diabetes should be referred to a local hospital to see a diabetes specialist (endocrinologist). All appointments are free of charge. How often someone sees the specialist is decided between the patient and them; for children, it tends to be every 3 months and for adults it can be every 6 months to a year. Patients should, in theory, have access to a dietician and a diabetes specialist nurse through their diabetes clinic. They should also have access to psychological support. Specialists can change a patients medication (for example, change type of insulin or brand of test strips) and inform their GP of this change – although often it is quicker to inform your GP yourself.

What about getting admitted to hospital?
Again, all treatment and medication provided by a hospital is free of charge for all patients. Any medication prescribed to you during a hospital stay is exempt from prescription charges.

How does diabetes care vary throughout the country?
Variability of care is great across the UK, with everyone able to receive insulin for free, but not everyone able to get an Insulin Pump, let alone a Continuous Glucose Monitor. Test strips are sometimes limited by doctors who will only prescribe a certain amount of strips per month. Many people do not receive all of the 15 healthcare essentials, which a person with diabetes should receive under UK health care system. Instead, they receive varying levels of care and support, depending on their location or the clinic they attend.

Thank you, Siobhan Murphy, for your help and support with this project.